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Essay Contest Results (6th Annual, 2011)

"How has your community helped you learn English?"

Grades 4-8

Shahrzad Nayeri
Oyster Bay School District
Teacher: Ms. Cuniglio

My community has helped me to learn English by talking to me in English and explaining words that I didn't understand. My school gave me ESL classes so I would do better with my school work. Also, I watched movies with my friends and I asked them to explain the words I didn't know.

Facebook has helped me learn English the most. I had Facebook back in Iran, but I never learned English with it. When I came here and I used Facebook, I learned so many new words in only 3 weeks. Even with Twitter I started following people and I could see their tweets and whenever I didn't know a word, I asked my friends.

At home, I learned so many new words, too, because my dad is from the USA, so he speaks English and I had to listen to him when he talked. I started asking questions to my dad. I also used to go to the mall with my friends, they would always explained new words to me.

I learned writing in school. I couldn't write anything in the first few months that I was here, and I didn't know anything and couldn't understand what people were saying, so it made me feel awkward. Luckily, my friends always helped me and bought me lunch everyday for the first few months and they helped me a lot. My teachers helped me a lot, too. It's been a year and a half and now I can speak and write English.


Roxana Alvarez
South Huntington School District
Teacher: Ms. Lopez


The community helped me improve my English language skills. My family is from El Salvador. They travel to Florida. My parents knew how to speak English. Then, they came here to New York.

I learn English when I was 5 years old. Before, I only knew how to speak Spanish because my parents only spoke Spanish, in the house. My older sister knew how to speak both languages (English and Spanish.) She showed me how to write English. Then, she showed me how to speak. I didn't know how to speak very well, but then I develop how to write and talk English when I got older. My parents wanted me to go to school and I was very excited.

Then, it was the first day of school. My teacher Mrs. Stein showed me some words that I didn't know. The numbers were hard to me, but then I understood my 1, 2, 3's. I was very proud of myself. The 1, 2, 3's was different from Spanish because the 1, 2, 3 sounded differently from Spanish. Then, when we learn the ABC's it was really hard. I mixed my "m" with "n", and "j" and "i". Then, a couple of months I knew which one was which. My parents were proud of me.

When I was little I watched shows that help me develop my English. My 1st show was "Dora the Explorer." It showed me how to speak English. Every word I didn't know I practice saying it. Then, my 2nd favorite show was "Sesame Street." It showed me numbers, letters, and words. I love that show and it showed me everything I needed to know. My 3rd favorite show was "Max and Ruby." It showed me pictures, words, and other things I didn't know. My 4th favorite show was "Curious George." That show made me learn everything. Every time that show was on I ran to the couch and watch. My last favorite show was "Barney." That show just made me happy. I didn't know why, but still I love that show.

That's how the community helped me improve my English language skills. Everyone that help me "thank you very much!!"


Grades 9-12

Jing Sun
Rochester School District
Teacher: Mrs. Wheeler


When people come to a different country for living, they have to start over with everything, just like babies. Parents teach babies word for word, sentence for sentence, and babies practice what they have learned from their parents. On the other hand, immigrants are looking for any sources that would help them learn new language and the new way of live. Communities have huge influence upon people, such as schools, working places, home and so on. Thus, it would be the best to learn from communities.

As we known, school is a place to educate, to develop specific skill, to improve disadvantage of people. When I came to the United States, I went to school study with other nonimmigrant. Even though I seldom spoke English at school, I frequently heard people talked in English. Besides, I learned some grammars, vocabularies, and daily words from teachers. Gradually, my English improved, and I could understand more during people's conversation.

However, school is just one small part of society, it cannot teach people everything. Thus, I had an idea- find a job. Luckily, my workmates were super nice. Since they knew I was learning English, they teached me some professional words that I did not learn at school. This job forced me to communicate with people, and it improved my speaking skill.

Learning is not bad thing for everybody. When people learn more, they will know more. In addition, people will be happy about what they have learned and appreciate those people who have helped.


Ying Chi
Rochester School District
Teacher: Mrs. Wheeler


There is no doubt that the environment has a great influence on people on every aspect of their daily life. It comes that the community one lives can make a big difference for him to do everything, including learning a strange language for a foreigner. My communities have helped me a lot on learning English.

First of all, the school has done me a lot favor in learning English. Going to school and communicating with the teachers and classmates is really helpful in learning a language. What is more, I can learn more vocabularies during study, and improve my listening and speaking. Especially in ESOL class, we can learn more detail in English, such as pronunciation and grammar. Besides the school, the place where I take a part-time job is also helpful. It is a restaurant, and I work as a waitress there. There are also many American girls work there, so I can learn more speaking English from them. Another good thing there for me to learn English is that I can communicate with more local people during work. The more you speak, the more you learn. I think this is the key to learn a foreign language.

My communities offer me lot opportunities to listen and speak out, and I think this is how they help me with learning English.



University & Adult

Alvin Chingcuanco
ASA Institute
Teacher: Ms. Portnov

I learned English in the streets. Most languages are best learned through experience. For the most part, I learned English by reading, listening, and repeating. Though this is the case, I discovered I retained the information better by using the five senses. English can be learned at home, in school, and on the streets.

At home, my busy mother used the television and radio as a baby sitter. She made sure I only watched English language shows or listened to English radio. At the end of the day, she spoke to me in English to review what I learned. In school, I learned formal English. Teachers showed us how to use grammar, structure, and pronunciation through books and dictionaries. I also learned from friends and classmates who read books outside the assigned text. However, I learned much more English while walking down the streets of New York. I read and learn to say words I read in newspapers or flyers. It is always fun to let new words roll off my tongue. I also learn by listening to people talk on the streets, making every step a fun learning experience.

Everyone should take advantage of learning English everywhere, be it at home, in school, or walking down the street. I learn from the television, radio, and Internet as much as I learn from school and friends. Walking down the street is always an amazing learning opportunity. Information is best processed when one experiences the language they are learning.


Fatoumata Kaba
CUNY Language Immersion
NYC College of Technology
Teacher: Ms. McDonnell


Growing up in an urban-based community has benefited me in a tremendous way. My original language is French. Being surrounded by individuals who speak fluent English has helped me improve my ability to speak and comprehend the English language.

Simply waking up and going outside to retrieve mail taught me how to greet people, like when my neighbors would salute me with a mannerly "good morning." Greetings and compliments are easy to learn because of how close the neighbors were are each other. If it wasn't a "good afternoon", then it was a "good night" that I repeated every day in order to learn English. I benefited greatly from my neighbors because we're so community based. The fact that the majority of my community is my age allowed me to pick up quickly on my new language.

The great amount of block parties and gatherings in my community also helped me to learn English. There would be millions of conversations around and my ears swallowed every new word that they heard. Living in this urban community allowed me to learn a new language without taking English speaking classes or studying Webster's dictionary until I no longer had the ability to think. My community allowed me to learn English without actually "learning" it.

My friends, family, mail man and even the ice cream man all helped increase the amount of vocabulary in my personal dictionary. Simply living and listening in my community has helped me learn English.