Adult Non-Native English Speakers in the United States
The non-native English speaking adult population in the United States is large and diverse, and programs serve learners with very different backgrounds and needs. This section discusses the characteristics of non-native English speaking adults that program staff need to consider when planning or delivering instruction, the reasons these learners attend adult education and family literacy programs, the strengths they bring, and the challenges they face. The learner profiles in Figure I-1 give a glimpse of the diversity that is possible within a program or class.
Figure I-1. Diverse Adult Learner Profiles
Rosa is a young mother in an ESL class in a family literacy program. She has three small children, whom she brings to the child care program. Rosa has been in the country for one year. Her ESL class has been running for a month, and the students are progressing slowly. Rosa wants to learn, but she attends class infrequently. She does not drive and so depends on family members for a ride, and she often is not able to bring one or more of the children because of illness. She understands no English, and another student translates for her. She has mentioned several times that she has no time to do any of the exercises outside of class.
Mohammed is 17 years old and has been in the country for six months. He is not enrolled in high school, because he needs to help his mother support their family of five, and he has two jobs. He finished elementary school in Iraq and can read and write in his native Arabic. He is learning to understand and speak a little English on the job, but he can read next to nothing in English.
Ibrahim is 60 years old and has come to the United States from Somalia, where he was a businessman and a tribal leader. He can read and write in his native language and in Italian. His refugee benefits have run out, and he has to work to help support his family. He is embarrassed about being in a beginning-level class, and he does not like to work in groups with women. When he speaks, he wants the teacher to correct everything he says.
What are the Characteristics of the Population?
Age. Any person who is 16 years of age or older and no lo nger enrolled in the K-12 educational system may enroll in adult education classes. Therefore, adult learners may range in age from teens as young as 16 to adults in their 90s.
Immigration Status. The learner population in a program may include permanent residents, naturalized citizens, legal immigrants, refugees, and asylees.
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