Do not underestimate an immigrant

This student shares his story about being an immigrant, and how his community and high school in Oakland helped him adapt.

By Team XQ

Justin is a student at Latitude 37.8 High in Oakland. The school uses the Bay Area as its classroom, encouraging students to connect their academic learning to the community as a whole.

Some people underestimate immigrants. They think that immigrants only come to ruin their community. That is not true. We immigrants come to try to help ourselves and have a better life.

There are also people who bully immigrants because they don’t know the same language.

I came from El Salvador to Oakland (about two years ago) because most of the family I have in the United States lives in Oakland. Three days after I arrived I had to go to school. The first months of school were very difficult for me because some people did not like me because I did not know their language.

“They Always Told My Dad to Translate”

One person called me (stupid) just because I didn’t know English.

When I was outside of school with my parents, some people spoke to me in English. I did not understand anything that they tried to tell me. They always told my dad to translate so I could understand.

My dad sometimes sent me to the store to buy food to practice my English, but I always told him I did not want to go shopping because I was afraid. I felt like people saw me as a fool. I was afraid because many people before had laughed at me.

Some people think that learning English is easy, but in my experience learning English is not easy. Becoming fluent in a new language takes six years and 10,000 hours, according to linguist Steve Kaufmann.

The following year when I was in 8th grade, I knew a little more English. I understood more and knew better what people were trying to tell me. I practiced English at home and at school. I did computer programs every day to learn English.

“Little by Little”

Little by little I was learning to communicate with people who did not speak my own language and I was no longer afraid to go buy things. I did not need other people to help me understand what other people were trying to tell me.

Latinos are not the only people who come to this country and we are not the only people who have a hard time trying to understand a new language.

In the city of Oakland there are many types of people and many people who are immigrants. There are immigrants from Asia, Africa, Latin America, India, and the Middle East.

At the end of the 2017–18 school year, Oakland Unified School District served 2,862 newcomer students across all grades. They all have to learn English at some point.

“I Am Not Alone”

That showed me, I am not alone. We can all learn new languages if we strive to.

Learn more about Oakland Unified’s many programs for English learners and newcomer students.

Learn more about Latitude High, where 36 percent of students are English learners.

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