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Posted by Samea Ahmed (she/her) on

One of my earliest memories of literacy is when I first became interested in reading. I had previously enjoyed reading books from what I can remember, but they didn’t last long, such as the magisterium series, charlotte’s web, or wings of fire series. It was always an on-and-off kind of thing where I would lose interest for a more extended period of time than when I gained it, right after finishing a book. However, it all changed in sixth grade, when my class read Percy Jackson for the first time.

In elementary school we often did read-aloud as a class, where the kids would sit on the floor surrounding the teacher, a copy of the reading in each person’s hands, following along as the teacher or another student reads aloud. Just writing this gives me nostalgia. I don’t recall another time when I was as excited for a story as I was for this one. Unless you count Judy Blume’s Fudge tales, but honestly even that doesn’t compare.  Everything was heightened in these moments, my participation, eagerness, discussion, and imagination. So much so, that I used to read ahead, always opening my mouth to rant about it, putting those colorful sticky tabs all around it, and even staying up late at night.

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To this day it probably still is one of my favorite books. Nothing had a hold on me like the Percy Jackson book, and later the series. I thought I reached the max capacity for this beloved series but then at the end, I find out were doing movie night and watching the Percy Jackson movie. We got all cozied up in our PJs with popcorn and drinks, screaming “it’s not done yet!” before the end credit scene. The joy I felt was indescribable, I wish I could feel that again. 

This summer, I had a summer camp counselor in training job, watching over this small class of kids, and I was assigned to go diving in a storage unit for books for them to read.  I found a whole stash of Percy Jackson books, and brought two back with me, praying one of the kids would be interested in reading even though they were around 8-10 years old, I tried my hardest to convince them every day. It didn’t work, but another teacher did pick it up to read just as I did. Every day when the silent reading time came around, I sat on a chair and re-read Percy Jackson by myself after so many years, finishing it by the time my summer job ended. I realized how much of it I forgot and went on again talking to the teachers and friends and family. Then proceeding to rewatch the movie again just so I could pull at the differences.

Reading Percy Jackson really opened a window for me, one that I never thought I would stay in. Onward from this moment, for the rest of the year and even in middle school I stayed on top of my game always making sure to up my reading level and discover new books I loved.  Books such as the Divergent series, shadow hunter series, hazelwood trilogy, etc. I grew a love for getting lost in these worlds I created in my head from all the books that I read.

“Reading Gives Us Someplace To Go When We Have To Stay Where We Are.”

Mason Cooley

It became something I enjoyed doing that really benefited me, and this time it was a long-lasting effect, even though I don’t always have the time now. But when I do I take advantage of it. 

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Posted by Derek on

WLLN Essay

     To say the least for my life, I have always had the bad feeling of being embarrassed and uncomfortable speaking to people in real life. No matter what since a very young age, I’ve always had problems with talking to people in public on any subject. With the combination of being shy and enclosed by myself since I was young, it was always hard making friends which made me very quiet and not be able to talk to people. This made my life very hard with trying to improve my grammar and develop many psychological problems for myself. 

     Since the very early age of around 3, I began to talk to my parents in my first language which is Spanish and till this day I only talk in Spanish in my household. This was hard for me to learn both languages at the same time since both I’ve had to memorize, and it was hard for me to develop proper grammar. My mom and dad would be the ones teaching me how to speak Spanish in the house while I also had to learn how to speak English in elementary school. This led me to becoming very enclosed and shy around people who wanted me to speak even though I only knew how to speak Spanish. At around 3rd grade when I transferred to my new school, I started taking ELS classes to help develop and improve my English grammar. For about 3 years until I graduated Elementary, I would only go to these classes for twice a week in order to improve how to speak English properly and have conversations. I would be scared to speak to my teacher, and it would be hard to learn quickly especially since it is hard to start conversations since I was very embarrassed if I ever messed up a sentence. 

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Posted by Tenzin Tsephel (she/her) on

Tenzin Tsephel

12/4/22

ENG 110: Writing and Rhetoric

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Growing up in India and making a sudden life changing move to New York at the age of 4 was something I never truly grasped.  As a child, I was not really a deep thinker, I was more surface level. I didn’t recognize the seriousness of this life-altering move. Some can argue that I was too little to understand, I think that I definitely could’ve shown more emotion- specifically sadness and maybe even anger, because I would be leaving my family and friends. I excitedly waved goodbye with a fat smile to my childhood best friends/neighbors and my grandparents, not knowing that it would be the last time that I would see the majority of them. My sister is 8 which is 4 years older than me and I saw her cry as we descended down to the LaGuardia airport, while I looked around in awe of the new world we’ve just entered. We moved around in New York 3 times and I went about it as if the course of my life wasn’t changing with each new “home”. Our first home was a tiny one bedroom, one bathroom apartment in sunnyside queens that housed my sister, my dad, my mom and I. 

In India, I was bilingual and spoke hindi and nepali. You would think it’s a good thing that a child as young as I was at the time, picked up not one but two languages (that were not primarily spoken in our house) and spoke it fluently. Instead I was made fun of by my peers and had snide comments thrown at me from other family members because I didn’t speak my own language, Tibetan. I’ve been a stubborn child since birth, so these insults didn’t have much effect on me. I would argue back when my friends commented about my lack of Tibetan culture and language. I never made the effort to change myself and learn because I took these comments as an insult instead of as constructed criticism. At times it felt almost as if I was ganged up on and bullied, which only strengthened my resistance to learning Tibetan because I didn’t want to give in and do what they wanted me to do. .

Fast forward to 5 year old Tenzin attending elementary school in NYC, I immediately adapted to American life and quickly forgot both of the languages I grew up speaking. I began learning and primarily speaking in English. Every morning, my mom would walk me to school for the next ⅚ years. My mom and I have always been closer than my dad and I. As those ⅚ years passed by, our conversation grew shorter and shorter due to our language barrier. Eventually it turned from conversation to a few sentences every now and then. When I started middle school, my mom’s English was getting better because she started to work as a housemaid in Manhattan to provide for our family.

In my teens, my ignorance only grew. At the ages of 10-15, I was very selfish. I was only concerned about normal pre-teen/teen girls things – boys and popularity. In school I was funny and loving to all of my many friends, and at home, I barely spoke to my family because I was constantly on my computer/phone. This emotional distance from my family can also be attributed to the language barrier that was previously instilled. During this time period, my family spoke only in Tibetan amongst each other, and when they would speak to me I would understand but only respond in English. I thought the only important language was English, and that I didn’t need to learn my native language.

During conversations with my mom on laundry day,or dinner at home, family outings etc. I would correct my mom and sometimes even laugh at her pronunciations of certain english words. I would speak over her when we’re in the grocery checkout line, or at restaurants because I was afraid of people not understanding her english. Looking back, I have not regretted anything more in life than the way I treated my mom during this time. I failed to understand that i learned English in school alongside kids my age and teachers. I was privileged in the aspect that I had so many resources and was taught at a young age so it’s even easier to learn. My mom on the other hand, had to learn English for her survival and for the betterment of our family. 

Once I hit 16, I went to a Tibetan refugee camp in India where I met Tibetans that were born and raised in India. I realized how uncultured I was and I was ashamed to even call myself Tibetan, when I didn’t even know the first thing about my culture. There, I read multiple writings by the Dalai Lama and watched documentaries about Tibet and our painful fight for freedom. I attended conferences, and even met the Dalai Lama in person for a Q&A with my camp. After the month ended, I returned to New York as a new person with a new mindset. When my parents would talk to me, I would respond back in Tibetan and I never made a comment again about my mothers pronunciation. Reading has truly made such a huge impact on my life by giving me knowledge and evolving my mindset. These books on Tibet provided me with a sense of culture and comfort and eventually created my love for reading books on activism and religion. Not only do I feel more educated, but I have genuinely been happier since then. I am now 20 and for the past 4 years I have been educating others on Tibet whenever they ask me about my ethnicity and why I was born in India (and not Tibet). The more people I can educate, my country and our history/culture/language will stay alive. 

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Posted by Jia Yi Karen Li (She/Her) on

On April 9th, 2019, I had emailed a girl I had never met before and will be spending 4 weeks under the same roof. This was part of the German-American Exchange Program that I had signed up for 6 months prior. I was filled with dread as sending the email meant that there was no backing out, or else I would disappoint everyone. I was nervous that I would be an outcast as I had no friends going on this trip and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make any friends due to my social anxiety. I had gone through forums, websites and even asked my therapist on how I was going to deal with my time there but nothing had really eased my nerves. 

Fastfoward to August 15th and I was now boarding my plane. After 4 months of constant messages between me and my partner, Emily, I would be finally meeting her in person. To say nervous was an understatement. I was nauseous, shaking, dropping things, and stuttering constantly when speaking to others. After my total 9 hours in the air, with one layover in Iceland, I had finally met Emily in person. As soon as I saw her, I felt all my worries wash away as I had realized that while I might not have known the other exchange students or partners, I had known her. I was not going to be completely alone because I had already made a friend while I was counting down the days and stressing over every small thing about my trip. 

This, however, was not the end of my worries as on the very first day, I had overslept and woke up at 2pm. I felt so embarrassed as the weeks prior to coming to Germany, I had tried to fix my sleeping habit. We barely made it to the museums that she and her family had wanted to take us to and I was so worried that I had just destroyed the plans that she had made. This made me spiral into a whole other set of issues I felt was going to ruin my time in Germany. 

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Posted by Min Aung Zaw (he) on

 Life is the journey of learning. We are learning every single day that you are alive the same as me. We always need to face issues on the way of learning, sometimes they can be solved in a minute, sometimes you need to spend a day, a week, a month to finally figure out the solution for the issues or problems. But I pretty enjoy the time spent trying to find the answer for the issue and how this answer really works for this specific issue. The most interesting thing that I learn in my life is computer hardware. When I was a middle school student in my home country, I started to be in touch with the most successful human invention product ever, Computer. The thing that contains a world that is ten times, hundred times, thousand times bigger than our real world. This new world not only shocks me about the intelligence of the human, but also makes me have a huge interest in how this computer is created and how they put thousands, millions of electric currents in the small litter metal box. Because of the passion of hunting for the answer for how the computer can understand the orders that humans give and how the computer completes the orders, I began the learning trip about studying computer languages and computer hardwares. 

At the beginning, I learned most of my knowledge about computers from the internet via videos and websites. I took my first computer class at my high school. I still remember I learn C++ language in this class and that was the first time I learned about C++. My teacher is very patient, he always clearly explains how every single command and function loop works in the program. I still remember spending a bunch of time understanding the logic in the programming language and learning the way to think for solving the questions. I always read the question first and break down the question in many steps. By solving all the single steps and combining them together into the big step to reach out the final intention.  

 He always lets us play with these commands and functions to create the thing that we want to do. Because of this class I started to know that only learning one computer language is not enough to be a computer engineer and let me recognize that I have a lot of things needed to learn to be a professional computer engineer. One more thing that very interests me is the way that they build the computer hardwares especially the CPU (Central Processing Unit). One of my passions is creating the new powerful and effective CPU. It can advance not only for the computer system but also can approve all the fields that rely on the capacity of computers’ solving and calculation ability like finance, entertainment, environmental protection and medical etc….

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Posted by Barthendrick on
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Language and literacy are used in everyone’s life, and it is around the globe. This allows us humans communicate with each other, learn more about ourselves and the world around us, and helps our character development.

            Growing up PBS Kids and other kids’ channels such as Noggin/Nick Jr played a role in learning English. I was born in the US, but both my parents are from Haiti. At home they would barely speak English with us since that isn’t their primary language making Haitian Creole the first language I spoke. It wasn’t until I was around 4 years old when I started speaking clear English so that other people could understand me. These channels gave me the ability to communicate with people other than my family and start making friends as a child.

Some shows that helped me learn how to speak are nothing but classics everyone should know. Mickey Mouse, Electric Company, Cyberchase, etc. But I also watched a lot of movies with my dad such as Boyz in da hood, Coming to America and listened to music a lot. Focusing on a lot of words being used in entertainment industry allowed me to speak better and learn better. I believe that if English is not your first language, watching films, shows, and listening to music is an amazing way to learn a language and their culture. It played a key role in my development and communicating with others.

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Posted by Teresa Calcano on

Teresa Calcano

Prof. Rice-Evans

10/19/2022

ENGL 110

A language does not define an individual; it separates them from their cultural community. As childhood emerged, my extended Dominican family made me proud of my heritage and culture. Yet, language was something that made me feel like an outcast within my community. As a Spanish speaker, a lack of knowledge of my native language kept me from deeper connections and building a close relationships with my family and Spanish kids my age. As a result of these judgments, I began to doubt my ethnicity.

An article showing Hispanics questioning themselves due to their lack of native language:

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/latino-not-fluent-spanish-litmus-test-still-plagues-many-rcna19385

In New York City, I live in a Hispanic-populated community. As a result, I deal with the disadvantages of my Spanish-speaking every day. For example, when I have to translate for my mom, I get anxious because I’m not giving the proper translation from both ends, which leads to confusion and mix-ups. In Washington Heights, a stranger can come to me asking for directions in Spanish. I don’t dare to help them. 

Based on my resume, it can be troubling because I can’t consider myself bilingual due to my issue and past occasions. Therefore, I don’t put it in my skills section. While looking for a job, I question whether a manager can rely on me, so I don’t try to apply for jobs for bilinguals, which have more options and pay.

The Dominican Republic was the destination for a month-long visit of my family last year. Since I hadn’t been there in years, I was excited to return to my home country. As we landed, nervousness set in. It was overwhelming to experience such a different environment, climate, and language. We got to our temporary apartment and went to a mall in the city. As a first-time restaurant customer in the country, I ordered several times because the worker was confused. My embarrassment took over after that because I tried to mask myself as a native but failed miserably. 

During our trip, we slept over at the family’s house. I found communicating with them challenging, but they were extremely friendly and tried their best to make me feel at home. At the local park, my aunt and I went for a walk. Our conversation focused on my plans for college and my future career. Despite my broken Spanish, I remember being able to converse comfortably. Also, I learned more about the country. The grocery store is called Colmado, Soda is called Refresco, and my favorite fast food to buy is Pica Pollo, which is fried chicken with a side. My Spanish improved and somehow made me feel I belonged here. My family’s connections and the learning opportunities I encountered during the trip did not get deterred by the language barrier.

My Spanish does make me any less Hispanic. During those memorable experiences, I realized I still belonged no matter what. I own my truth and continue to learn and love my heritage. 

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Posted by Harin D on

Harin Dharmasena  

Professor Rice-Evans 

ENGL 11000 

18 September 2022  

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To me, my language brings back many interesting and significant memories. I only recognized its significance later on and how it made me different from my American peers in the classroom. A specific moment that comes to me would be one of the earliest moments I can recall, in my early years of schooling. While I was learning to interact in two completely different languages. Which were English and Sinhala, and constantly facing confusion while learning them. Although becoming bilingual now seems easy I see how difficult it truly was for my past self. While other kids growing up only had to figure out one language. Whereas I, just like many other first-generation ethnic kids, had to figure out but also become fluent in their second language. To be honest I at one point was jealous of that but now I see how the struggles of growing with two languages are such a blessing. When it comes to growing up bilingual, it is a blessing in disguise, with both positive and negative effects.  

A specific moment that comes to me vividly when thinking about languages would be when I was about four or five. Whereat home my mother would talk in a mix of English and Sinhala to teach me both languages. Then when it came to outside of the house such as school, I would hear and interact with English alone. Which as a little kid would create a lot of confusion. Later my parents told me that I would not speak at all no matter if it was at home or school. Then resulted in me was a speech and language therapist from five to seven years old. During this experience I remember feeling not only confusion but embarrassment. It made me embarrassed of culture and who I was. Languages for me made me ashamed of who I was, it created unneeded confusion and grit. This was a significant memory to me because later I recognized how different I was from my white American peers in the classroom. It further clarified to me how if I were like the kids, I envied I would not have these struggles at all. 

It might seem easy to grow up bilingual, but it is difficult as a kid. Something many first generation or immigrant kids understand far too well. I cannot speak for all but at least for me in my early years I had a lot of confusion. I recall frequently as a kid reading and while doing so, I would translate a sentence in my head slowing down the pace I was reading at. So, where it would take other kids five minutes to read a paragraph it would take me 10 minutes. Something I was constantly annoyed by and later fixed. This was another significant memory for me because I would wonder why the other kids were not reading like I was, then I realized going to schools with little to no diversity was why the other kids had less confusion. The confusion I think stems from growing up as American but then also connecting to another part of you as well. As a kid, I would say I was embarrassed of my own ethnic background, but now I see it as something to be proud of. What I mean by this is that for me language is not just a way to communicate but it can be a part of one’s identity. 

Language now can only be seen as an advantage for me. It connects people to their culture and heritage, which is something important to people of any minority growing up in this country. Language helps people of any minority connect with the food, smells, and traditions in their culture. Language helps eliminate the difference you feel about yourself in this country. Language not only gives you a deeper understanding of your culture and heritage but also one of yourself and your identity. Now I see how language is such a crucial aspect in anyone’s life, especially those of minority people. My development in languages would be because of my mother as a child she not only made it her responsibility to make sure I understand English, but also the Sinhalese language. She made sure to teach me to read, write, and speak English outside of school while also on the side teaching me all about pronunciation and writing of Sinhala. She was able to teach me all of this from an early age and did so because she knew it would be easier to become fluent in another language if you started early on. She understood that although I was American-born, I was still different from what people consider as an American.  It helped my present self be in touch with my ethnic background while also still being American. 

The ways I see my capabilities in language, reading, and writing impacting my life would all be positive. My two languages allow me to be in touch with both cultures I grew up with, American and Sri Lankan. I get to have the advantage of connecting with people through either language. My experience truly gives me the ability to connect with my race and family, I get to communicate with other people of my culture and learn more about my history.  Being fluent in two languages now I only can be seen as a positive impact and allows for a particularly important understanding of oneself. Language not only gives me a way to communicate but a way to identify with myself. 

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Posted by Cai Rong Li on
Picture of JFK airport

Language and literacy are things that people use throughout everyday life. I learned my second language through immigration. 

I immigrated to the United States during my early years in elementary school. Before I immigrated to the United States, I didn’t know a single English word. I didn’t enjoy reading at all since I had a hard time understanding the content of the book due to my lack of vocabulary at the time. Even though my English improved over the years, thanks to my teachers’ reading activities, I still couldn’t find reading interesting for me. It was until 5th grade that sparked my interest in reading books. My 5th grade teacher assigned a research project on ancient civilizations and we need to read textbooks about civilization and eventually create a booklet based on the ancient civilization. At first, I was frustrated because I don’t understand why I need to read books about things that were from thousands of years ago and have nothing to do with me.

“I came, I saw, I conquered”

– Julius Caesar

However, I soon changed my mind about this research project and I became interested in a topic that I thought I would never be interested in before. As I started reading about my assigned ancient civilization, Rome, I found myself lost track of time and continuously reading until the bell rang. The description and images of the Roman civilization from the textbook attracted my interest into learning more about Roman culture. This is the first time that I read nonstop without getting distracted by external factors. While I created the booklet for the project, I found myself actually enjoying the process because I am doing something that I like. After the project, I started to read books about other civilizations and led me to play games based on ancient civilization backgrounds. From the game, I met people from different parts of the world with the same interest and we would roleplay as ancient civilization groups and play against other groups. 

Picture of the game

From this research project, I gained more than just a new interest that carried on throughout my life but the willingness to try things that I didn’t like from my first impression. This experience impacted me significantly because it inspired me to try new things that seem challenging such as badminton and coding, which now became my favorite sport and major. 

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