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Sound Writing

Subsection 6.4.2 Challenges

Although the challenges that come with learning English as another language vary from person to person, multilingual college students tend to agree upon several major struggles. Some of these issues revolve around grasping the language itself, whereas others are more focused on the social issues revolving around a multilingual identity. In this section, we wish to bring awareness to the variety of challenges multilingual students face in a largely monolingual society. We hope to inform monolingual readers about the ways that they or others could unintentionally be harming multilingual students, while also appreciating the immense mental processing that multilingual people must go through when engaging in a monolingual space with a non-English language in their head.
For some multilingual students, the main challenge they face with English is in the mechanics of the language itself. Many multilingual students say that they struggle with reading specifically because they fall into the routine of translating each word into their native language. Other challenges revolve around remembering when and how to use certain words.

Student Perspective 6.4.4. Translating Issues.

The real struggle is how I pronounce the words. Another struggle is remembering how to use the words correctly.
Some students report that they often feel discouraged from speaking in their native language while in an academic setting. This can be particularly problematic if someone in an authority position, such as a teacher or professor, is instigating this language repression.

Student Perspective 6.4.5. Native Language Discouragement.

I had a teacher tell us that we shouldn’t be speaking Spanish because we’re in America. She discouraged us to speak Spanish. So that was difficult in the school environment, feeling kind of like it was something we weren’t supposed to do.
Along a similar vein, multilingual students can also feel embarrassed about their native language when in social settings. Multilingual students commonly feel othered when they are exposed for speaking a non-English language at home.

Student Perspective 6.4.6. Feeling Othered.

I used to be embarrassed as a kid. If my dad would pick me up from school and would be speaking loudly to me in Portuguese, everyone would like turn and be like, ‘Oh, what’s he saying?’ and I would just feel different.
Either by assimilating to English America or by not having the ability to be exposed to other individuals who speak a language other than English, many multilingual students feel as if they are losing their connection to their native language. Specifically, in college, multilingual students report that they have very little opportunity to communicate with others in their native language due to the scarcity of finding other multilingual students who share the same language background as them.

Student Perspective 6.4.7. Maintenance issues.

If you stop speaking [your native language] because you’re in college now and you’re only speaking English with everyone, then it can be hard to keep it in.
These stories offer important and eye-opening lessons. For many monolingual individuals, multilingual struggles are oftentimes invisible and easy to dismiss. It is important to raise awareness of the ways in which academia and English American society can adjust their practices to greet multilingualism with open arms. Multilingualism is not something that should be suppressed, ostracized, or limited, and instead should be seen as unique new perspectives with many things to offer in and outside of the classroom.

Student Perspective 6.4.8. Alternative Viewpoints.

People here [the United States], most of them speak only English. So when they learn that you speak more than one language, they’re kind of impressed and I feel proud that I can speak two languages.