OPINION: Support will motivate immigrants to keep learning English

Illustration by April Calvo/The Et Cetera

Illustration by April Calvo/The Et Cetera

LONDY RAMIREZ, Contributor

Imagine coming to a new country without knowing the language. It feels like you are coming out of a box for the first time and you have no idea of what is going on.

I was born and raised in El Salvador, the smallest country in Central America. El Salvador has amazing scenery and the greatest beaches for surfing. It is also one of the most dangerous countries in the world and the economy and education are not good.

When my mom and dad asked my brother and me if we wanted to move to the United States, without any doubt, we agreed.

I studied in El Salvador until the seventh grade. If you attend a private school you are lucky because they start to teach English in first grade. But if you attend a government school, they don’t teach you English until the seventh grade.

I was 13 years old when I arrived in Mesquite, Texas, on March 7, 2014. The first thing I heard was “Hi, welcome to America.” I only understood two words, “hi” and “America.”

When I began learning English there were words I could not pronounce or I got confused about. Many people made fun of me. It made me feel sad, insecure and embarrassed.  It discouraged me from learning sometimes, but I understood there are always going to be people like that.

The beginning of my school year was hard. I cried every day before and after school. I put pressure on myself because I did not understand the language, and I began to have painful headaches.

 I was depressed and ready to give up, but I reminded myself of everything my parents had done for me. They brought me to this country so I could have a better education and find a career I would love.

I started to focus more in school and asked my friends how to say and spell words. I stayed after school for tutoring, and I started to believe more in myself.

There were many factors that help me learn English. I had friends who did not speak Spanish, which motivated me to find ways to talk to them so they could understand me. I also watched television in English with subtitles in Spanish so I could put both of the languages together.

Talking with friends in English was a great help too. If I said something wrong they helped me say it right.

Learning the language better brought more responsibilities from my parents. They had me translate their documents and talk to people for them. At that time I was not confident with my English and putting that responsibility of being the spokesperson on me made me feel nervous for a couple of years.

Today, I am proud of learning a new language. It was not easy, but in the end, I am proud of myself for overcoming all the obstacles there are for people like me.

Now, I feel more comfortable talking to people. I still get confused with words, but that is how everyone learns. First you make mistakes, and then you learn from them.

If you know someone who is in the same situation, please do not pressure them. Show them your support and they will feel motivated to keep learning the language.

— Londy Ramirez is a contributor and communications major