Monday, April 6, 2009

Adult Learners

Last Thursday night I have the privelege of attending a graduation for adult learners in LIFT ESL (English as a Second Language) at Aldersgate Methodist Church in Arlington, TX. I have mentioned in earlier posts that I am in awe of our adult learners who persevere learning to read. Now imagine learning to read and speak and write a totally new language as an adult. At the same time you are trying to learn the customs, laws and social norms in a new place. Such is the life of many of the adult learners in LIFT ESL classes.

LIFT operates literacy classes in 39 sites in Dallas, Tarrant and Collin counties. More than 8,000 adult learners will go enroll in classes and more than 60% of the enrollees will complete their course of study (compared to the national average of just 10%). And the majority of LIFT ESL adult learners are illiterate in their native language also. Many of them never attended school in their home countries.

It is hard of us who are literate to imagine not being able to read. You might be tempted to imagine what life is like if you couldn't speak the language by equating it with a trip you take to Spain, France or Germany. But it is much harder than that. If you or I, being literate in our own language, landed in a European country we still might be able to figure out some of the words. At least we would know the alphabet.

Life for the illiterate non English reader would be closer to us being dropped into Japan or China - trying to figure out what these characters are and which way is up.

Food for thought.

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