“Too often we forget to put ourselves in the shoes of English language learners” (Paz 2008). Essentially, we are asking ESL students and their families to become culturally competent in their new environment. Learning the English language just happens to be a part of the learning process, but it is the understanding of our culture that we are really asking them to learn about.
If you have ever been travelling in another country and had to use signs in a language you are not familiar with to navigate around, you can appreciate what an ESL/ELL student goes through on a daily basis. When interacting with ESL/ELL students in the regular classroom setting the best advice I can give the classroom teacher is, be aware of whom you are communicating with. The awareness alone will help alleviate some of the frustration and misunderstandings. We need to make it automatic, just as you would immediately know not speak to a toddler using the same vocabulary you would use with an adult and vice versa.
The Cultural Competency Quiz illustrates another interesting point. We can learn a language of another country but once we arrive there it is the culture that may make it difficult to communicate. Having travelled to India, I know this all to well. I was born and raised in Canada, grew up speaking English but for all intensive purposes, here I am considered Indian. I can speak my parents native language of Punjabi, wear the clothing and eat the food, but as soon as I set foot in India, the locals can tell just by the way I carry myself and walk that I am not from there. It happens to me every time I go there. Even if I respond to them in Punjabi when they ask me where I am from and I say my parent’s village, they laugh and probe further by saying, “No, really... where are you from?”