Challenges Non-native Speakers Face


Ranjana Darjee in a typical Nepalese dress Photo credit: Ranjana Darjee

Ashley Cruz Cortes, Contributor

Imagine attending high school in a country that speaks a language you don’t know. 

At BFA there are four students who have moved to Vermont from all over the world. These students are Ashley Cortes (‘22) from Honduras, Ranjana Darjee (‘21) from Nepal, Angelie Notingor (‘21) from the Philippines and Thang Le (‘24) from Vietnam. They are living here with their families and now must navigate the difficulties of high school at the same time they are learning English. 

“In the U.S. there are better opportunities than Nepal, but [it] also is safer. That’s why a lot of people over the world immigrate to the U.S., but some of them struggle with communicating,” said Darjee.

Cortes, Darjee, Notingor and Thang Le are all ELL (English language learners) students at BFA, and there are some similarities and differences in the challenges they face day-by-day.  “One of the hardest things about learning in English is when you don’t know a word,” said Notingor.

As a student who recently moved here from Honduras, I have learned that there is so much new language when you’re listening to a teacher in class. You get overwhelmed and you lose track of what is going on and miss so much of the lesson. Sometimes, people talk too fast and you lose track of what they are saying.  I have also learned It’s hard to pronounce words because the people we learned English from in our country were not native speakers of English, so we have to adapt to their pronunciation. 

“It’s also hard to respond as quickly as you want to someone who speaks more English than you,” said Notingor. 

It’s not just about the language, it’s also about social customs because we have different perspectives about people.  We had an idea that Americans have no feelings because they don’t show emotions.  Friends who went to the U.S., and returned, said that Americans don’t physically demonstrate their affection for friends with hugs, etc. They seem cold.

Adjusting to the food can be challenging for some, while others eat their native food more than American food.  “We still have the same culture as we had back in Nepal because the U.S. is a country of freedom,” said Darjee. 

Adapting to a new climate and culture can affect students physically and mentally. According to Renne Rouleau (RR), the human body tends to react when you are exposed to something new, developing diseases or adverse skin reactions.  I have already adjusted to the climate in my mind but my body  hasn’t adjusted as quickly.  My skin is drier than in my country.

Every teenager has to adjust to their parents’ decisions.  It’s hard to make adjustments when you are trying to learn English, but some people don’t have a choice.  They can’t return to their countries.  “We moved here for a better settlement and a better life.  It was my parents’ decision to move here,” said Darjee.