EAL: Support for multilingual students

The English as an Additional Language (EAL) Program currently enrolls 58 students throughout the school, and has existed at ASL for more than 50 years. There are 48 languages spoken throughout ASL, and 20 percent of students are bilingual. EAL helps these multilingual speakers whose primary language is not English.

The program previously stood as an extra-curricular to help students gain proficiency in English. But, this is the first year that the program has formally become its own department and an  official EAL class has been added to students’ schedules.

Gonzalo Pato Montemayor (’19), a native Spanish speaker, was at the top of his English class in Spain. At ASL, his English skills were not at the same standard. He believes EAL has been helpful in improving these skills. “At the beginning of the year I made more mistakes [speaking] than I do now. The EAL program has helped me fix these. Even though I still make [mistakes], I make fewer,” he said.

The curriculum, similar to the World Language Program, consists of reading, writing, listening and speaking, with the majority of students doing well in speaking, and needing help with writing.

HS and MS EAL Teacher Christine Wilson described the goals of the program as “EAL is here to support students language, their culture and their identity,” she said.

Unlike Montemayor, Kian Tajbakhsh (’18) believes the EAL class is no longer useful for him. “I feel as if my English is fluent and that there are other people that need this program [more than I do] because they really do need help, and I feel I can speak English well enough,” he said.

Tajbakhsh believes it is time for him to move on from the program and select other ASL electives.

Alicia Tolchinsky (’19) usually speaks Russian with her parents and brother. She recognizes the positive contribution EAL has had on her language skills but believes there is too much focus on grammar work.  “We don’t do [as] much homework like as [I would like to]. We do half and half, but it always ends up [being] just grammar work,” she said.

She wishes that the class would allow more time for her to do her English homework with the EAL teachers.

“I wish that we would do our English homework in the class, because then [our teacher coud help us with it,”  she said.

However, Wilson believes the EAL program serves a different purpose than helping with homework. “This is not a study hall. The idea [of EAL] is skill- building with additional assignment support,” she said. This means that if certain homework assignments give students trouble, they can get help from the EAL teachers but they don’t get time to work on regular homework assignments.

The progam is tailored to a range of levels. Students are assessed on their level of English, on a scale of one to six, with one being students who are new to the language and six being fluent.