The reason that we teach

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ImmigrantsIn mid-December I was flying back to Burlington, Vermont from LaGuardia airport in New York. A couple with a small child, dressed in a slightly unusual fashion were in the wrong seats, and were properly relocated to the very back row of the 20-seat plane where I was sitting. The father had something very like a luggage tag attached to him. It turned out that they were refugees from Bhutan, who were being relocated by an international immigration organization, after having spent 18 years in Nepal. I was able to talk with them a little in their limited English. The man told me that in addition to speaking Drupal and Nepalese, that English was like a mother tongue to him. Then the twenty-something flight attendant got on the intercom and gave the safely briefing. The man looked at me and said, “She’s speaking two languages right? American English and something else?” I had to inform him that, although it may not have been a very good model of language, she was in fact speaking American English and nothing else. He sighed. I thought at that time what an important role ESL teachers play in the lives of people like this. A nice reminder during the holiday season that the opportunity to make a significant difference for people is why many of us teach ESL in the first place.

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