Where are YOU From? – Learning ESL in Mixed-Nationality Classes

When learning ESL in the United States, many English students are excited to meet people from other countries. Others, though, might not be as comfortable with a class full of people from ten different countries, because it can be more challenging to communicate with one another. Keep in mind, however, that the challenge of a multi-national ESL classroom can actually help you learn English faster!  

Being part of a class of mixed nationalities forces you to use English instead of relying on your native language when you get stuck. When learning a new language, everyone gets stuck or frustrated from time to time; that’s part of the language learning process. But when you cannot fall back on your native language and have to push through in English to get your point across, you are actually pushing your English language skills to a new level by not giving up.

Of course, you can still learn English in a class with other people who speak the same first language.  You’ll still be able to learn and practice vocabulary, grammar, listening, speaking, etc, but students in a class with peers of the same native language tend to take longer to get to the same English level as students in a mixed-nationality ESL class.

So wherever and however you learn English, try to surround yourself with students who don’t understand your native language, as a way to strengthen your confidence and fluency.

12 thoughts on “Where are YOU From? – Learning ESL in Mixed-Nationality Classes

  1. Based on my learning experience with another target language, I agree with this assessment. Learning German in a US university classroom composed of English-speaking co-students was a vastly different experience in comparison to my integration classes in Germany. Though quite challenging in the beginning, learning German with native speakers of Russian, Arabic, Dutch, Portugese, French, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese forced me to turn German into my primary communication tool in the classroom, thus accelerating my language acquisition and my assimilation into the German culture. My experience tells me that a mixed nationality classroom in a country speaking the target language can powerfully impact learning, acquisition, and retention.

  2. Yes, Perry, the above blog really does apply to learning any language. I’m glad to hear that you thought that you got more out of the classes when you couldn’t fall back on your native language. Hopefully you’re still learning and speaking German! Cheers!

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