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Language Barriers Faced by International Students, Essay Example

Pages: 8

Words: 2187

Essay

Many writers focus their messages on the importance and disadvantages experienced by foreign students in multicultural schools. These positive and negative aspects of multicultural interactions come from the element of language. Spolsky, a renowned writer in this field says that language is the main mode of communication used by people within any given society (Spolsky, 26). Language conveys either verbal or non-verbal messages, which develops meaning and understanding in communications. Amy Tan is another writer who focuses on the practical situations of foreign language to communication. From Amy Tan’s story, we can see the various contexts where he and his mother were required to use English language to communicate. In the story, Amy Tan says, “My mother had gone to the hospital for an appointment…”.  This shows that people use language in all aspects of the society, which includes the social, political and the economic aspects (Tan, 48). Therefore, language plays a great role in sustaining various activities within any social setting. Before moving to evaluate the issue of language and cultural diversity, it would be appropriate to acknowledge that language dialects differ from one society to another. However, humans have the ability to learn a new language practiced by a foreign society. This facilitates cultural interaction within the modern globalised village. From a theoretical point of view, language use is relative depending on the society in which it uses it. In this case, Chinese students may take time before fully integrating into an English speaking society, with respect to spoken and written English. In the process of developing the fundamental language skills, foreign students may experience difficulty. Spolsky says that these difficulties are seen in situations when spoken and written language skills are necessary to perform certain duties during communication (Spolsky, 34)

Apart from the issue of language, Amy Tan acknowledges the importance of knowledge and skills during communications. The author highlights this in the instance concerning the confusing test about the color images (Tan, 48). Amy Tan could not think beyond the required level because of limited experience and knowledge in handling such situations. In the story, he says, “Well, I could not think that way. I knew what the tests were asking, but I could not block out of my mind the images already created by the first pair”. This shows that post-secondary education is important in the society today. In this case, another writer focusing his work on the importance of language skills is Schweitzer. In his writings, Schweitzer says that most societies are turning economic centers into complex industrial work places (Schweitzer, 51). Therefore, workplaces use different technical and social skills in achieving a given level of productivity. This means that the people responsible for implementing these social and technical skills into production lines should have certain basic skills. In this regard, post-secondary education mainly aims at equipping individuals with the necessary technical and social skills required in workplaces. Acquisition of these skills ensures that an employee in any organization participates fully in activities directed towards achieving an organization’s goals. In his works, Schweitzer says that lack of post-secondary education presents difficulties to an employee, who in turn, may not perform his or her duties as expected by the employer (Schweitzer, 92). The relationship between language and the necessary skills in work environment facilitates communication among employees working together in the same task force (Schweitzer, 32). This makes us to see the importance of the human resource composition of the American labor force.

Amy Tan acknowledges the substantial immigration of Chinese nationals into the US (Tan, 51). In the story, Tan rhetorically asks, “why do so many Chinese students go into engineering?” According to Schweitzer, globalization is responsible for the massive movement of people from one society to another (Schweitzer, 79). Both students and employees are moving to foreign societies as part of searching for employment. In this regard, the population of American schools today comprises of both the native and foreign students. In the recent past, many nationals from foreign countries, especially Africa and Asia move to America in search of education and employment opportunities. This leads to cultural diversity within schools and workplaces in the US and Canada. Based on Amy Tan’s evaluation on the usefulness of fluent English to Chinese students in the US, one can argue that cultural diversity in the US presents varied challenges to the education system, which is responsible for equipping students with the necessary technical and social skills required in workplaces (Tan, 48).

Another writer of language issues, Edwards, says that in the US, culturally diverse learning environments have some negative effects to foreign students, especially when it comes to the issue of communication (Edwards, 50). Just like the other two writers, Edwards focuses on the issue of language diversity in American schools. According to his writer, the American education system use uniform teaching and examining methods to all students (Edwards, 63). Most schools conduct lessons and examination exercises in English language. In addition, all forms of communications within these schools use either written or spoken English as the key language. Schweitzer supports this by saying that international students have some difficulties adjusting to the requirements of American schools (Schweitzer, 87). With respect to the Chinese population in US schools, these students complete post-secondary education in English speaking schools without developing effective communication skills in the English language. Amy Tan’s writings on the effects of mother tongue to Chinese nationals in the US support this statement of post-secondary education (Tan, 50). This features when Tan asks rhetorically, “Why is there few Asian Americans enrolled in American literature?” Most foreign students in American schools, especially the Chinese students complete their education having acquired only the basing skills in spoken and written English language. To be specific with the effect of mother tongue, grammar and cultural nuances remains the biggest language barriers to foreign students (Edwards, 68). Edwards points out that foreign students may possess the basic skills, but might struggle when it comes to the grammatical aspect of the English language. One example of difficulties concerning the use of correct grammatical skills by English learners features in Amy Tan’s story. In one instance, when Amy Tan was walking down the street with his mother, her mother made grammatical mistake in the sentence, “Not waste money that way” (Tan, 47). Schweitzer supports this by saying that such cases happen to foreign students when they try to communicate academic concepts to their professors (Schweitzer, 55).  In addition, cultural nuances like the use of slang, idioms and euphemism remain the biggest language barrier to foreign students in American schools.

Upon entering American learning institutions, foreign students join mandatory English classes to develop their basic skills for communication in English language. Amy Tan’s story implicitly points out that these classes focus in equipping students with fundamental skills in written communication (Tan, 51). Tan says, “My mother reads the Forbes report…yet my friends tell me they understand 50% of what my mother says”.  From the theoretical aspect of communication, written language skills only will not enable students to develop effective skills in English language. In this case, foreign students find it hard to fully integrate into the American learning culture (Edwards, 59). Grammatical complexities in spoken English remain the biggest problem hindering effective delivery of message to these students. In the US, English language is the major form of communication used in conducting lectures and examinations by professors. In this regard, foreign students have difficulties understanding the actual content thought in classes. Sometimes, these students join American students in discussion groups. Edwards says that in such situations, the cultural elements of language like the use of slangs and euphemisms may sideline them from active participation in these groups (Edwards, 142). In addition, another major problem also comes in when these foreign students may require clarity for the technical content of lectures. In this case, they may not be able to effectively communicate their questions to the lectures due to grammatical technicalities of the language. Schweitzer asserts that this problem force foreign students to hold back their questions in lectures, hence ending up acquiring less content than expected (Schweitzer, 94). The insufficient content acquired will result in poor academic performance during examinations and other performance appraisal exercises.

Cuyjet is another writer on the effect of poor language skills during communication. According to this writer, language barriers for foreign students surface during technical and mandatory sessions of education programs (Cuyjet, 45). This statement can be supported by Amy Tan’s story about his mother’s language problem. Amy Tan’s mother experiences most communication difficulties in the hospital incident (Tan, 48). In the incident, Tan says, “ She would not leave until the doctor called her daughter…we had assurance that the CAT results would be found”. In the context of American schools, such sessions may include practical experiments for science and engineering students, or presentation session for students under social sciences programs. Cuyjet points out that during these practical sessions, all students should communicate through written or oral reports in English. In this case, foreign students may experience difficulties communicating their findings due to grammatical errors in their sentences (Cuyjet, 74). Therefore, ineffective communication skills during these sessions translate into poor performance in academic records. In Amy Tan’s story about his mother, the consequence of ineffective communication results in poor or failure to deliver the intended message (Tan, 50). This problem of language barrier is responsible for the numerous academic statistics, which shows that a small percentage of foreign students qualify for university graduation within the required period, compared to their American counterparts. Grammatical and cultural elements of English language present major challenges to foreign students in their academic programs (Edwards, 92).

Amy Tan also focuses on a situation where educated Chinese students still finds it hard to communicate effectively in English (Tan, 51). Tan says, “Asian students, as a whole, do significantly better in mathematics than in English”. Cuyjet supports this by saying that after completing their academic programs, the mentioned language barriers still remains a problem to foreign graduates in the job market (Cuyjet, 107). The American labor force requires that an individual seeking for employment opportunities should possess the required academic and social skills. The mentioned academic skills include good transcripts from their post-secondary education programs. On the other hand, good social skills would include the ability to communicate effectively and fluently with other people in the workplace. Cuyjet claims that American employers emphasize the need of good communication and interpersonal skills in workplace responsibilities. With respect to the continued poor academic performance in schools, then these academic requirements of job markets will lock out most foreign students (Cuyjet, 78). On the other hand, most foreign students have difficulties communicating fluently in English. In this context, the labor market in the US does not favor foreign students, hence subjecting them to endless struggles. In a case where some of these students join workforces within the US, they experience another challenge regarding an organization’s culture. The difficulties mentioned earlier about cultural nuances for foreign students persist as the main language barrier in workplaces.

Cuyjet says that based on the discussed problems experienced by foreign students in American schools and the labor market, then the American academic system should formulate strategies meant to address these issues (Cuyjet, 127). The most appropriate strategies should focus on preparing foreign students to adapt the American learning cultures. In this case, mandatory English classes for a specified period of time will serve the purpose of enabling foreign students to learn both spoken and written language skills. Amy Tan’s story about his mother’s language problem shows that one can be able to read and understand written English language. However, when it comes to speaking, grammatical difficulties and other factors hinders effective communication. Tan says, “My mother reads the Forbes report well…yet my friends tell me they understand 50% of what my mother says”. Apart from these mandatory lessons, foreign students should be given advantageous opportunities during their learning period in American schools. Such opportunities may include standardized performance appraisal exercises, which consider the foreign students’ inability to effectively communicate in American English (Schweitzer, 173). This will ensure fair administration of education programs to these students. Fair and considerate examinations translate into improved academic performance among the foreigners. As a result, more foreign students will graduate and enter the US labor market with good academic credentials. This will enable them to secure employment opportunities within the nation’s labor force. From a social and technical perspective, a culturally diverse workforce possesses a greater potential of increasing productivity. Therefore, fair academic practices in American schools, which take into consideration the issue of language barriers in foreign students, may supplement a more powerful workforce into the economic sector.

Works Cited

Cuyjet, Michael. Multiculturalism on Campus: Theory, Models, and Practices for Understanding Diversity and Creating Inclusion. New York: Stylus Publishing, LCC, 2011. Print.

Amy, Tan. Mother Tongue. Chapter 2: Family and Community, 46-52. Print.

Edwards, John. Language Diversity in the Classroom. California: Multilingual Matters Publishing, 2010. Print.

Schweitzer, Roberts. Cultural Diversity: Promoting Social Cohesion through Education. New York: World Bank Publications, 2008. Print.

Spolsky, Bernard. Language and Education in Multilingual Settings. Pittsburg: Multilingual Matters Publishing, 2007. Print.

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