What challenges do adults learning English face?
ESL learners are not only trying to acquire a new language and a new culture; they also are working, managing their households, and raising their children. These challenges often present significant obstacles to learning. The National Center for Education Statistics (1995) listed the following barriers to program participation: limited time, money, child care, and transportation, and lack of knowledge about appropriate programs in the local area. The National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL, 2004) surveyed community leaders and educators in communities with recent rapid growth in numbers of immigrant families, and respondents identified similar challenges.
Logistical challenges. By far the most frequently mentioned challenges in the NCFL survey were lack of transportation and child care, which seem to be problems in both rural and urban areas. Demanding work schedules also may make class attendance difficult. Program availability challenges. Even when programs are accessible, potential ESL learners may have difficulty finding a program and class that meets their needs and goals, offers the right instructional intensity level, and allows them to make the transition to other levels of education.
Employment. Unemployment is a common problem, but even adults who are employed may have low-paying jobs or seasonal agricultural work that requires frequent moves. Many adults work at multiple jobs and accept irregular work shifts to earn the money they need to support their families.
Housing, language, and medical issues. The lack of adequate and affordable housing is a common challenge for immigrants to the United States. The language barrier in finding housing is another: Adults seeking assistance often find the service system complicated, confusing, and unresponsive and have difficulty communicating with service agency personnel. A third challenge is health care. Like others living in poverty, immigrant families may have physical and mental health issues that need to be addressed, and limited access to treatment and preventive care can result in even more illness. Lack of medical insurance, lack of transportation, and communication problems with medical personnel all make it difficult for families to get the care they need.
Psychological and social issues. The demands of juggling several jobs, family responsibilities, and education make daily life management extremely difficult. Added to this general stress are other emotional issues. Many immigrant adults feel embarrassed about their limited education. Some are living in fear about their legal status in this country. Even with supportive families and neighbors, on the job they may feel isolated and alone. Parents may be worried about their children's safety in this country and their success in school.
As described above, almost half of the adult education students served in federally funded programs are English language learners. Population trends and projections for the next 10 years indicate that the number of adult English language learners in the United States will continue to grow. Educators need to have information about these learners so they can serve them effectively.
|Previous Page||Table of Contents||Next Page|