In Praise of English Language Learners

A chalkboard sign saying, "Well done!"
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

As an English as an Additional Language (EAL) teacher, I think I have a responsibility to remind my students of the incredible job they have done as additional/foreign language learners. I think as teachers we sometimes forget the challenges our students are going through! This letter is to all additional language learners, wherever they are.

Dear EAL learners,

I acknowledge you. I admire you. I celebrate you! You’ve already done an incredible job. Whether you are at the beginning level, where your journey has just started, or you have been in this for quite a while, you are amazing and here is why.

You are amazing because what you are doing, learning a language, requires change. It may include a change in your daily lifestyle (finding time to learn a new language) and a change in your attitude as you get to know a different culture with its own specific thinking style.

Change is never easy. It’s at times painful, but the eventual result glorifies you.

Learning an additional language requires effort and perseverance. There is no shortcut, no quick fix. In other words, there’s no language pill that you can take and become an expert user overnight. Well, this is clearer than daylight. It is also clear that making an effort and staying determined and motivated to learn a language is the reason behind your ultimate success. People cannot accomplish this without enduring academic pain. So, as a former EAL learner and a current EAL teacher, I am fully aware of what you go through in this rewarding challenge.

This journey engages various parts of your being. It works your brain, which leads to physical fatigue. A vast part of this process engages your emotions. As you are learning a new language and you venture using it, you expose yourself to a degree of embarrassment resulting from making mistakes. No one wants to embarrass themselves in front of others. But there’s no way out. It’s an inherent part of the process. You need to learn how to cope with awkward situations and how to sustain the communication and bring it to closure effectively. And of course, that’s going to cause you some frustration, disappointment, and embarrassment. But as an EAL learner with a high degree of dedication, you will remove this obstacle and gain confidence. You know that removing any obstacle can make you stronger.

That’s why, in comparison to native English speakers, you possess an invaluable experience they have may not know about. So, I invite you to proudly use and manifest this strength in interactions in EAL contexts. Invest in your language learning journey by studying consistently and improving your proficiency. At the same time, communicate openly and fearlessly; embrace all the mistakes that you make and acknowledge them as tools that improve your language performance. Never stop learning. Learn something new in your new language every day. And I am not just talking about vocabulary and grammar. Honing your communication strategies is also important. Get to know the various cultural, social, and historical parts of the language. Get involved in practice and natural interactions with native speakers to help make your language natural and authentic. Appreciate these opportunities for what they’re doing for you.

Just know that what you do is admirable. Your journey is exemplary. You have become a different person with confidence and resilience because you invested in your language learning pursuit through accepting the ups and downs of learning.

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