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First of all I would like to thank DC language access coalition for giving me this chance and I am very pleased to talk about what language access act means for students. Hello everyone! I am Lidya Abune and I go to Calvin Coolidge Senior High School. I am a member of SMART (Student Multi-ethnic Action Research Team). SMART works with ELL students in different high schools and we meet twice a month and discuss about important issues faced by ELL students, share our experiences and sync up to handle problems that comes in our way and blocks us from achieving what we have conceived.
Language barriers, as defined in Wikipedia, is a figurative phrase used primarily to indicate the difficulties faced when people who have no language in common attempt to communicate with each other. Language can be a major barrier in literacy when a person speaks an unwritten language and is expected to learn to read in a language he doesn’t understand. Becoming literate can be a confusing and frustrating process. Many give up permanently convinced that reading and writing are beyond their grasp. People who come to USA at an adult age when language learning is a cumbersome process can have particular difficulty “overcoming the language barrier”. It makes many students feel helpless and over-stressed because many immigrants are unable to express what they are thinking or feeling inside and also the bad experience of being alienated by some students aggravate the situation further. Some students intentionally or unintentionally laugh or mock at our accent and this hinders our motivation or confidence to communicate .The limitation of vocabulary is another problem that hinders to communicate efficiently thoughts and ideas one has.
From my own experience, I have a younger brother named Younael and he goes to one of the elementary schools in DC and I got a call from his school on Monday and the nurse told me that he had three shots that were overdue. She told me that she had been sending letters to inform us but all the letters were in English so my mother wasn’t able to understand it. Also from my school mine and my friend’s parents always get a phone call when there is a parents’ conference, if we skip classes, if we didn’t go to school but they have no idea about it because the phone calls that they receive are in English and sometimes in Spanish so they get confused. One of my friend’s parents who live nearby always call me and ask me for an interpretation when they get voice message and sometimes I don’t understand it too so even if the [language access] act is put on effect we still have to cooperate to make sure it is working everywhere.
The language access act of 2004 which was put into effect on October 1, 2004 is a privilege to be cherished and which provides opportunity for immigrants to exercise their rights of access to translation and interpretation. Because of this act, students and parents are able to participate effectively and also understand important messages and information which are announced by the school and also we benefit from public service, programs and activities offered equal to other English proficient students. We get this paramount service at no cost and no transportation is needed.
SMART club, a program of Many Languages One Voice, is working with school principals, teachers and students to hold awareness workshop so that ELL students develop their self-confidence and express themselves freely. Students who are member of SMART at Calvin Coolidge met with our principal and we discussed some of the issues that we need it to change or improve for the next year which are multi cultural learning environment, support services (more ELL teachers and counselors), credit recovery program for ELL students, safe space and also interpretation and translation service, lunch menu that are culturally sensitive or ELL friendly for example on Wednesday and Friday most Ethiopians are vegetarian for religious purposes but the school doesn’t provide vegetarian dishes so some students leave the school without eating.
SMART members have occupied ourselves with different activities like devising plays, putting posters at various schools, distributing flyers, having slogans printed on t-shirt that read “I am proud of my accent,” planning a poetry recital evenings and hosting international day which all meant to serve to break the language barrier. Language, being a sign and symbol that carries cultural elements and serve as an interactive mechanism to members of the community /society, is considered as a powerful instrument to human beings at large. I will like to air out my conviction that the success of the above activities depends upon all stakeholders. I hope your contribution is more valued.
Once again thank you!