The struggles of an ESL student

College’s travails are worse when you struggle with English

There is a belief that the best chances to be fluent in a foreign language is when you’re introduced to it at a very young age. I came to the U.S. in my late twenties with my speech muscles firmly formed for the Ukrainian and Russian languages. English is not a second language for me, it can be considered as my forth, since I am acquainted to a tongue of a country that is a neighbor to my native.

Getting used to studying a new language was not extremely hard for me. However, it was not a piece of cake either. I needed to work twice as much as the English-speaking students did. I frequently referred to a translator, sharpened my attention in every class, and sometimes looked for required texts in my native language in order to get a better understanding in the English renditions.

In addition, I used to write down the names of people and places that were hard to memorize. Later, I would look them up and spell them correctly. Once, I brought such a list to a test and no wonder it was considered cheating; the almost finished essay was taken away with zero. Since then, I carved in my mind: never again. There’s a time and place for cheat sheets, a test isn’t one of them.

Any ESL student can encounter a problem caused by either low English or a cultural difference. A Japanese girl once told me that often she was misunderstood or just ignored because of her poor English since she had a Japanese accent and related to that style more.

I can tell a lot of stories about hardships of the non-English speaking students. However, I see no need to tell all of that, because most people wouldn’t like to share their names and stories. But I have two suggestions for the novices in English and for those who are fluent in it: ESL’s—always be friendly and polite no matter what; and English speakers—just use your imagination and put yourself into a totally different culture with a different language.

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