Harnessing the power of language

How teaching and learning English can help integrate immigrants and their children

All immigrants are faced with social and economic issues that are far easier to address if they understand the language of their host country. However, learning a new language while also learning about and adapting to a new culture is a great challenge.

Adults who wish to make a positive contribution to their new community have a clear need for support in the form of adult programs that aim at developing English language skills for the work place and engagement in social activities such as shopping, use of public services and communication with their neighbors.

Language skills are also essential for understanding the host country’s educational and legal systems to enable them to become educated law-abiding citizens. Well-designed language programs that encompass these needs have the potential for ensuring successful integration of adult immigrants.

Equally important is the successful integration of the children of immigrants in our public schools. Children who are unfamiliar with the English language may face difficulties in demonstrating competencies in literacy skills and problem solving and ultimately may not be able to function well in a technology-rich environment. Teaching these children can be challenging, yet there are teachers who are committed to developing new skills to meet the needs of these students.

There are professional educator preparation programs for the teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) available in New Hampshire and other states in the U.S., approved by the Department of Education.

These programs help teachers to develop specific skills for the teaching of academic and social language, which needs to be closely aligned with common core state standards across the curriculum. Children of immigrants greatly benefit from qualified ESOL teachers who are able to focus on the development of these students’ language skills. This type of specialized instruction has a major impact on English learners’ academic achievement overall and readiness for further education and employment.

Christine Irvine-Niakaris is coordinator of the Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics TESOL Program at Hellenic American University in Nashua.

Categories: Opinion