On Friday, I was talking with two coworkers and I was trying to express my feelings about our ELL (English Language Learners) kids. Let me begin with stating that I think it is a feat to be bilingual (or polylingual). I’ve taken French, Spanish, and Italian. I can’t speak any. I can understand the gist of slowly spoken Spanish. Many of our ELL kids prefer to stick with other ELL kids. That’s pretty logical. Some help and act as translators for us less-lingual teachers, some literally do not speak a word of English and therefore need to speak their first language and stay with students who speak it. I have trouble figuring out which students speak English and which don’t, because sometimes, I think that they think that messing with teachers is funny. I guess it is.
So, I explained some of the issues I have had with a handful of our ELL students and I said: “I don’t speak ELL.”
This cracked up my coworkers. I think they got the point thought. While ELL isn’t its own language, it kind of is. We have kids who speak different dialects of Spanish, kids from Africa, Vietnam, and all over the world. They’re not just learning English. They are learning pieces of every other language too, while leaning academic English from teachers and slang from classmates. These students aren’t just becoming bilingual. They are learning pieces of everything. And if that means they want to make fun of the library teacher who tries to remember basic numbers in Spanish, that’s Ok with me.