In Europe, more than half of all residents speak more than one language, but in the U.S., not so much. Today, it’s estimated that only 20 percent of Americans can claim that accomplishment. Sure, we might be able to order a beer in Mexico City, or find the subway station in Paris. Fluency, though, isn’t just about being able to read and write, or asking a question and getting an answer. It means being able to carry on a conversation with a native-speaker, knowing enough of the language to hold down a job, or to earn a degree.
In a recent visit to Willimantic’s Quinebaug Community College, a foundation grantee, we were delighted to hear from a number of students … in their own words … who have made great strides thanks to our ESL funding. All are confident speakers and forging ahead in their lives.
One student talked about her motivation to learn English — to help her children with their schoolwork and converse with their doctors. She has also used her new-found English skills to get a promotion and raise at work. Another student came here as a preteen, knowing only her native language. For several years, she needed an interpreter just to talk to her adopted mother. Now her teachers are encouraging her to become a public speaker. Another student related that’s she’s started her own business, while a fourth said she’s working to be an ELS teacher herself!
Hats off to these students who have worked hard to learn the language and are now launched in all kinds of new directions!
From left to right, say hello to: Juana Argueta, Milagro Velázquez, Elkin Espitia-Loaiza, professor of Spanish and ESL, Zulma Montalvo, Yasmin García-Juarez, and Rongdan “Selena” Gates.