Whole New World

ELL students explore a new language and culture

Listening to their teacher explain the lesson, ELL student quietly take notes in class.

Maryam Majid

Listening to their teacher explain the lesson, ELL student quietly take notes in class. "I teach students that are coming from a different country that speak a different language with different levels of English," ELL teacher Margareta Cernev said.

Maryam Majid

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Walking into room 1403 with a scheduled interview with the ELL teacher and some of her students, I already knew it was probably going to be one of my most interesting interviews this year. This story wasn’t about some every day, unyielding news event. It was about students that blend in so unnoticeably with the rest of us, that it’s hard to tell their only difference is the language they can speak.

“My first language is Spanish and I’m from El Salvador,” junior Maritza Alejandra Lopez Moran started off. “In my country I studied English since I was 10 years old but we only did a lot of grammar and writing, not speaking. When I came here I learned to speak in English more”.

Speaking in English back in El Salvador is hardly necessary when everyone you know can speak fluent Spanish. Kind of like in Spanish classes here in America, where the majority of students rarely bother to speak Spanish unless they’re taking their summative oral test. So imagine moving to a Spanish speaking country with Spanish 2 speaking skills.

“I felt a little sad because I had to leave all my friends and family, but I was happy because I haven’t seen my mother in two years and I got to see her again,” Maritza’s sister, freshman Josselyn Amelia Lopez Moran continued.

The journey with a new language seemed to differ for sophomore twins Khasan and Khusain Valiev. Unlike the Morans, they hadn’t previously practiced a lot of English back in their home country Tajikistan.

“My first language is our Tajik language. I also speak Russian and some German. I am learning English,” Khasan Valiev said, carefully structuring his sentence. “My family is in Tajikistan but I came with my brother here”.

The Valiev brothers had started a new life in a foreign country, consequently introduced to a whole new culture and even a new language. Their feelings on their move to America were comparably similar.

“At first when I moved last year, it was a new country and it was okay but now I know more about America and it feels like Tajikistan to me,” Khasan’s twin, Khusain Valiev concluded with a small smile.

The ELL teacher, Margareta Cernev has a foreign descent of her own and briefly discussed her primary Romanian language as well as other languages she had gotten to teach over the years such as Russian, French, and Polish. When asked about her current students, she had nothing but positive remarks to share.

“They’re really friendly with each other and they really like to help and go beyond the needs of this school,” Cernev said. “For example, last night (Back to School Night), they came to the school and helped translate for parents who were coming from different cultures.”

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Whole New World