Severe Language Barrier

Discussion in 'ESL/ELL' started by catnfiddle, Nov 16, 2021.

  1. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Nov 16, 2021

    My school has rolling admissions, so I get new mentor students all the time. My newest one speaks almost no English (and I speak no Spanish), to the point another student had to jump in and translate my question, "Do you need a bus pass?" I'm so mad at my parents for talking me into switching to studying Latin in high school! Seriously, though, does anyone have suggestions for how to make things easier for this kiddo?
     
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  3. miss-m

    miss-m Groupie

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    Nov 16, 2021

    Picture cards for EVERYTHING, and/or find a student buddy who can interpret.

    For you, Duolingo is fantastic for building basic vocab and grammar. It's honestly how I became conversational enough to live in Mexico for a couple months and then later teach math lessons in Spanish.
    Another great resource for quick and fairly accurate translations is www.spanishdict.com
    You can type in questions or sentences and it'll translate the whole sentence - I've found it to be a little more accurate than Google translate, especially with phrases that Google tends to translate word for word in weird ways.
     
  4. viola_x_wittrockiana

    viola_x_wittrockiana Comrade

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    Nov 16, 2021

    I work at a bi-lingual immersion school right now, and it's like that for me with three of our Mandarin program kids. I know like 6 words/phrases of Chinese and none are related to my content. The Spanish-speaking kids I have covered, except for that one time when I had a brain fart and couldn't think of the word for nurse and kept thinking the German word instead.

    I run everything through translate, but then back-translate it and tweak the original English until it comes out coherent and as precise as it gets. Even if the work has to be in English (kinda, it's not like that much music vocab is English), I always give them the instructions in Chinese so they at least know what's going on.

    Yes to the picto-cards with words in both languages and gestural language goes a long way. I'm also careful about using the same language every time to ask for an action. Even when they don't know the individual words yet, they'll figure out with repetition what you need them to do.

    In an emergency situation, there's always phone translator apps. Just be careful of FERPA issues with that or get an admin's okey-dokey first.
     
  5. Guitart

    Guitart Companion

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    Dec 22, 2021

    I have never had a student that was completely non-English speaking.

    I had a student who chose to not speak the entire time in elementary. It was considered "selective silence". I don't think she had a 504 or accommodations. Everything I asked her was yes/no questions or choice-based. She would nod or point. Similar to the pictures option mentioned. If she really needed something, it was told to me through another student.

    I have a child now who comes from a Spanish speaking home. He never spoke in K. I managed to communicate with him using a little Spanish and Italian but he never spoke. Not even Spanish. Now he's in 2nd grade and can speak fluent English. I don't think he developed these skills when he was sent home in 2nd sem of K and was remote his entire 1st grade year. My guess is that he was fluent all along. Another example of "selective silence".
     
  6. miss-m

    miss-m Groupie

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    Dec 22, 2021

    This is very common for ELLs. Many will go through a silent phase as they take in the new language. They're processing so much new information: words, environment, people, activities... it's a lot to absorb and take in. I've had newcomers who spoke no English in August leave the school year conversational in English. Some kids are more willing to try speaking in English or communicate in Spanish (or whatever their L1 is) than others, and many just go silent while they absorb everything.
    Plus when you learn a new language, there's a phase during L2 development where you actually lose some L1 vocabulary as well. It's weird; you start learning a new language and suddenly you can't remember words in your native language either. I can't imagine how frustrating that would be for kids in school: it's a chaotic setting, they're surrounded by new people, and they can't understand a significant chunk of what's going on. And for ESL/Newcomers who don't have anyone in the class who speaks the same language as them, it's often easier to go silent and hope for the best.
     
  7. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Dec 22, 2021

    UPDATE: I have been working in partnership with our school's paraprofessional (who is bilingual) to strengthen his L2 skills. Thankfully, I have access to Achieve3000 and he is working on that in place of my more traditional curriculum. Additionally, I have changed his Remind setting to translate my messages into Spanish. He's already much more engaged than he had been at his previous school.
     

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