Language barriers are an issue that affects a variety of individuals worldwide. Whether it be refugees fleeing their home countries, immigrants looking for new opportunities or others who are moving across the world, the language barrier can lead to unanticipated setbacks. This single obstacle can lead to a whole host of challenges that can easily cause stress and frustration for incoming migrants. Fortunately, English as a Second Language (ESL) programs exist to help individuals overcome such challenges, breaking the language barrier.
About Language Barriers
Studies have shown a distinct correlation between the language barrier and poverty. As the language barrier is a direct impediment to effective communication, accessing community resources becomes far more difficult. This may lead to a state of poverty. For example, a study on the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community analyzed varying levels of poverty. Japanese Americans have a relatively low poverty rate of 8.4% while research has shown that Hmong Americans have poverty rates as high as 24%. This number is well above the U.S. average of 13.7%. According to the study, one of the main reasons for the disparity between the two groups resides in language issues and the ability to speak English fluently. Those who had limited English proficiency often experienced higher poverty rates than those with more English fluency. Below are two areas that language barriers affect:
- Healthcare: Language barriers weaken communication between a patient and doctor, contributing to low-quality health care services. In some cases, this can be hazardous to a patient’s safety. Many health care centers have proposed using interpreters, but this can be costly and weigh on many vital resources.
- Education: The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reports that 40% of students all over the world do not have access to education in a language they know. This poses a challenge in the classroom. Students are unable to receive a quality education and may feel isolated without the ability to socialize and create bonds with their peers.
ESL and Organizations that Provide Classes
ESL programs are an important factor in breaking the language barrier. The classes many organizations offer are able to increase the confidence and success of many English learners. Refugees who participate in ESL programs have been shown to integrate better into their communities and feel more welcomed by the people around them. They are better capable of finding employment and are able to work toward successful lives in their new country. ESL is an important step in an English learner’s journey, and below are two organizations that offer such opportunities:
- English 1 on 1: An organization that is dedicated to providing free, conversational English lessons, English 1 on 1 teaches virtual English lessons to students. Its lessons are catered toward the individual needs of a student and cover a broad scope of topics. In order to make the biggest impact, English 1 on 1 teaches immigrants and refugees in the United States as well as organizations worldwide. Its students come away with a deeper understanding of the English language and the tools necessary to communicate with the society around them.
- The Refugee Resettlement Office of Western Washington: The Refugee Resettlement Office (RRO) provides a multitude of services for refugees in Western Washington. Whether it be providing assistance in the resettlement process or the development of strong employment-seeking skills, the RRO covers all bases. It also offers free conversational English lessons multiple times a week for its clients. Although not required, the lessons allow students to experience quite a number of learning levels. The RRO allows its students to progress and become stronger in their English abilities.
Language barriers are an obstacle that prevents many migrants from feeling as though they are true members of their communities. The challenges these individuals face may cause them to fall into a state of poverty. Breaking the language barrier is necessary to alleviate poverty as a result. English as a Second Language program has emerged for this specific purpose. Many provide their services free of cost and create lessons that are easily accessible. These programs can uplift migrants from poverty and lead to their future success.
– Mariam Kazmi