There’s a new reality for American students learning a second language.
The new reality is that in many cases, they’re doing the opposite.
“There are many students that are having difficulties with learning English or French,” said Elizabeth Shaff, an English and French teacher who has taught at New York’s Bronx High School and New York City College.
“There are also students who have been struggling with language proficiency in the classroom and have found that the teachers that they’re with are not being able to help them with their language learning.”
The new realities for students learning English and a second native language are complicated by the fact that American students are graduating from the highest levels of education in the world and are more than twice as likely to be enrolled in postsecondary institutions.
According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, just 21 percent of Americans have completed a high school diploma or higher, compared to 74 percent of non-Hispanic white students.
While the gap is narrowing, there is still a substantial gap in graduation rates.
For the first time in the history of the country, less than half of Americans graduate from high school with an advanced degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The number of Americans who graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree is down to 13 percent from 24 percent, while the number of people with advanced degrees is up to 13.8 million, from 8.3 million.
The numbers are similar for high school graduates and non-high school graduates, according a Pew Research report published in 2017.
“We have more young adults than ever before, and they’re learning English at a higher rate than they ever have before,” said Shaff.
“But it’s also important to realize that they are also struggling with the language.”
Some of the problems students have are that they may be struggling with grammar, spelling, vocabulary, and pronunciation.
“I think it’s important to know that English and Spanish are not mutually exclusive,” said Brian Deutsch, a Spanish teacher who teaches English at New Mexico’s Albuquerque Community College.
“If you speak English and your language skills are good, then you’re not alone in the United States,” he said.
“If you have a poor English ability, you’re just as likely as not to be able to speak Spanish or English.”
In many cases the students who don’t succeed in their native languages don’t necessarily struggle with English and don’t need help with it.
But, sometimes, they may struggle with the learning process.
“They may be able at times to be more fluent in English than the teacher,” said Deutsch.
“The teacher may be more likely to help students who are struggling.”
According to Shaff and others, students who learn English at the very beginning often struggle with language at the end of their education.
“When I first started teaching English, it was a struggle,” said Chih-Chih Wu, a third-year English teacher who is now a teaching assistant at Bronx High.
“We had to put the teacher in charge and teach students with dyslexia and other difficulties.
They have to understand what’s going on and why they’re having problems.
If you’re a first-generation English learner, it’s not that easy.””
They don’t have the vocabulary,” said Wu.
“They’re struggling with how to understand a sentence and that’s why they struggle with learning the language in the first place.”
Another issue students have is that they have difficulty with language when they’re working in a foreign country, which can have a negative impact on their career prospects.
“Students who are trying to get a job in a place like Vietnam, who are working in construction, they often have trouble because they’re dealing with language issues,” said Duane Miller, a fifth-year business and management major.
“The language barrier that students have in Vietnam is something that I think is a concern.”
For those students who struggle with their native language, the answer is not necessarily to try to get better at it.
“It’s actually to be proactive,” said Miller.
“To help your students to understand their native tongue better and help them to be successful in a new environment.”
“It really helps them to understand the culture and the language,” said Yuen Wong, a fourth-year nursing student.
“It helps them understand the customs and the habits of the language.
So they can start to better understand how they are interacting with the culture, how they interact with each other and the environment, and how they should act in those interactions.”