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Learn the language of DGS

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Ina Barashka

More stories from Ina Barashka

Issue 3
January 25, 2019
%E2%80%9CThere+is+something+about+speaking+your+own+language+that+brings+out+your+real+personality%2C+it%E2%80%99s+the+different+vocabulary+this+used+in+the+language+to+express+yourself%2C%E2%80%9D+junior+Samantha+Issa+said.
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Learn the language of DGS

“There is something about speaking your own language that brings out your real personality, it’s the different vocabulary this used in the language to express yourself,” junior Samantha Issa said.

“There is something about speaking your own language that brings out your real personality, it’s the different vocabulary this used in the language to express yourself,” junior Samantha Issa said.

Ina Barashka

“There is something about speaking your own language that brings out your real personality, it’s the different vocabulary this used in the language to express yourself,” junior Samantha Issa said.

Ina Barashka

Ina Barashka

“There is something about speaking your own language that brings out your real personality, it’s the different vocabulary this used in the language to express yourself,” junior Samantha Issa said.

Throughout history, language and communication have evolved because of the development of the world around. Words have been removed and added to the dictionary, languages have been learned and lost. In one country, language is a pattern of clicks, in another it’s a formation of words. The same can be said for language at DGS versus language at home for many students; it looks different at home than it does at school.

There are currently 639 students who speak a language other than English at home, and for many, this language was their first.

Junior Gustavo Lopez’s family moved to the United States when he was a child. Being one of the only people to have known English in his family, Lopez feels as if he holds his education at a higher value since it helped him learn the language faster. He mentions that school was an aide in his journey to learn English, and from there, he was able to help the rest of his family accomplish their goal of learning the language as well.

“It was kind of weird for me to have a translator at every single meeting for school so I grew up with a higher value for school since it helped me a lot to learn English … [now] I am able to speak English with no problems,” Lopez said.

English teacher Mark Indreika believes immigrants tend to take greater advantages of the resources America has to offer, such as our education system. Because of this, he sees foreign students take advantage of what America has to offer.

“I think that there are some cultures in the world that really value education more … it’s very evident in terms of how they [bilingual students] carry themselves in class, they’re very serious,” Indreika said.

Like Lopez, Junior Chris Gonzalez helped his mom communicate with others in their day-to-day life.

“Growing up bilingual I had to translate for my mom because she didn’t speak too much English and my brother was dyslexic so I had to do more of the translation for the family. It was kind of tough sometimes when I didn’t know [the] vocabulary,” Gonzalez said.

Indreika believes that many times, students who aren’t advanced in English would have to find alternatives to understanding what is going on in class. He believes that these students feel as if they are under pressure to fit in with a new culture.

“I’ve had some bilingual students who have incredible work ethics, and [an] issue that they face [is] a lot of times they have to come up with strategies on their own to get through difficult reading assignments,” Indika said.

To counter this problem, DGS offers a program called ‘English as a Second Language’ that is designed for students who need additional help with their English. Gonzalez was in a similar program in his elementary school.

“It was pretty much just a bilingual course up until fourth grade. I didn’t really feel like it was a different class or anything, it was just on my schedule … It helped me in [the] sense that it gave me a break in the school day to recollect my thoughts and reflect,” Gonzalez said.

Although these students needed a helping hand in learning English, most said they found picking up another language was much easier.

Sophomore Max Soja was born in the United States, but Polish was still his first language. Soja says it is easier for him to learn Spanish in school already knowing Polish.

“There are words that are cognates, they sound like words in English … or mean the same thing in Polish … so I can guess better meaning and context than some other people,” Soja said.

Indreika believes learning a new language can set them up to be more accepting of the process of learning a new language.

“Students who have to learn a second language also just have an affinity for language. The more languages you learn it just becomes easier … actually, in that sense it’s an advantage,” Indreika said.

Indreika tells a story of a foreign student he had named Ana. She was from Poland and according to him, was one of his best students. He thought she had lived in the US for years because she was very advanced in the book the class was reading in Latin, The Scarlet Letter.

“I’ll tell you one story about the very best bilingual student I’ve ever had. Her name was Anna, and she came from Poland, this was years ago,” Indreika said.

“It was in a junior English class, we were studying Nathaniel Hawthorne’s the Scarlet letter which is a pretty difficult book … and this girl, Anna,  was just the best kind and student in the class. I mean some of my native-born speakers were having a hard time with all of the latinate kind of language that Hawthorn used, they couldn’t understand what the book was even about — these are native-born speakers, and she came in and was outperforming everybody. I asked her, well I assumed that she knew English and had been in the country for a while,” Indreika said.

“I knew that she came from Poland so I asked her ‘how long have you been here?’ And she said ‘I’ve been here for 12 months.’ And I said well you clearly must have known English before you came, and she said, ‘I knew how to ask where was the bathroom,’” Indreika said.

“That’s all she knew how to say in English. 12 months later — in 12 months, she entered into this junior English class and outperformed every student native-born speaker. I mean it wasn’t even close,” Indreika said.

Sophomore Chrissa Dimitrakakos’s grandparents immigrated to the US before she was born, but she still learned to speak Greek and can communicate with her distant family. Visiting her family in Greece is her favorite part about going back, along with visiting new places in her home country.

“I would say I am definitely proud of my country: It is such a beautiful place filled with great people — Greece is my second home, and I love it with all my heart … We just went to Greece this summer for a month, we hadn’t gone for 4 years, so it was great to see all my family and houses down there. My family and I have talked about it, and we are going to try and go every other summer just because we love it so much,” Dimitrakakos said.

Soja explains that he also visits Poland when he gets the chance. Since he went to Polish school as a child, he says it has helped him communicated better with family members who don’t live in the US

“I went [to Poland] this summer. A lot of my family members live there so we go visit. [Polish] helps me connect better with my family and people that I know at school … I feel like it makes me feel cool that I can speak another language and some people can’t and don’t have this opportunity,” Soja said.

Indreika thinks that the cultural differences and values that each student brings to DGS are some of the qualities that have shaped the ambiance of the school.

“It’s one of the beautiful things I love about DGS. You get all kinds of different perspectives, people from different cultures, people from all around the world. I think that it greatly benefits the students who are native-born speakers who are from Downers Grove because it just broadens their perspective on the world,” Indreika said.

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