Recently I came across a topic with a friend about divides that we experienced as monolingual students and ESL (English as a Second Language) students. The deeper we got into the conversation the more factors came into play into the separation that was created among the students.

 

I was born and raised here in the United States but my first language is Spanish so I was one of the ESL students for 2 years. At the time I never saw my self different from the monolingual kids because I was so young and hadn’t realized that a difference existed. When I got older and I was among the monolingual kids the divide was very clear. The partition first begins with in the institution because of the obvious language barrier but then the children became bullies, teasing the ones that were struggling to learn something that was so natural to them.  I remember the only time the classes came together was for gym and there were two clicks: the “Spanish” girls and the girls who obviously spoke Spanish but still wouldn’t speak to them. It was a hierarchy based on language even though we could’ve just communicated just fine. Not speaking English definitely put you at the bottom of the pyramid.

My friend’s experience was the opposite of mine because he was an ESL kid for eight years. He described his experience as discriminatory. For many years he knew English perfectly, the advisors and teachers told him every year that he did not need to be a part of the ESL program but he felt protected there because if he wasn’t with them then he would be with the kids that bullied them. Where the ESL students were placed even had a different name, they were in the “cloisters” and the monolingual kids were so bad they invaded the cloisters all the time to go bother the ESL kids. In this case the abuse wasn’t only verbal but physical causing him to sometimes pretend that he wasn’t with the cloister kids and hiding the fact that he could speak Spanish.

This segregation first came into place by being incorporated by the schools and then taken to another degree through the socialization of students. Here the school plays the role of a social institution in which the system had a direct impact on the students’ identity, behavior, and social position.

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