A hundred years ago, my university minor was TESL, or Teaching English as a Second Language. Since those far off university days, North Americans seem to have realized that many of the people who migrate to this continent are learning English as a third, fourth, fifth, or nth language. The presumption of calling it ESL has turned into an argument about just what to call it. English as a Foreign Language? Additional Language? Alternate? Not that it matters. What matters is conversation.
I had an amazing instructor in my ESL education module, a lady named Olenka Bilash. I understand she is now Dr. Bilash, but I'm betting that everybody still calls her Olenka. Olenka had our class come up with practical ideas of how to engage new language learners in conversations that would be so enjoyable, they would forget that they didn't know English. She brought in an ESL class, and I'll never forget presenting a lesson where I played a recording that I'd made of water running, doors closing, the flicking of a light switch, someone clapping hands, a toilet flushing, etc., and the fun everyone had in trying to explain the noise and what made it. One of my classmates brought pictures of animals, and we laughed a lot as we compared the names, descriptions, and sounds of those animals with the same group of students.
Today's suggestion is simply to take the time to talk with someone whose first language may not be English, to smile and make them feel welcome, to share a laugh or a joke if you can, just because language is best learned when it's shared. And if you learn a few foreign words yourself, I'd love to hear them. Kwaheri!
P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Try here.