The Importance of Language Accessibility in Schools
The challenge of language barriers in schools has always been something that educators and administrators alike have tried to resolve. However, as our schools grow more diverse, we have seen a rise in school-aged children who do not speak English at home. With research showing that there is a shortage of bi-lingual personnel who can assist with linguistic diversity, the question presses: How do we provide equal learning opportunities and access to all students regardless of language proficiency? The answer, while not easy, is to continually strive to offer language equity. This can be achieved through the use of subtitles for English videos, utilizing language services, and encouraging the celebration of language diversity. At the same time, it is vital to first acknowledge how large the issue of language accessibility has become, and understand the social and cultural effects of this.
The Challenge at Hand
Currently, more than 1 in 10 of all students in the United States (nearly six million) are trying to learn English. Not only is this a very high number of students, but this has culminated into one of the biggest challenges that educators are currently facing. With the promise for equal learning opportunities, comes the need to adapt teaching methods to include students of all linguistic backgrounds. With 3.8 millions students in the United States who are fluent in Spanish and still attempting to learn English, there is an undeniable need to accommodate these students. Though 90% of students are enrolled in ELL programs to assist with their learning, the ‘quality of these programs are suspect.’ Students who struggle to feel included in learning material and school related announcements also are shown to struggle with emotional hardship and have a much more difficult path to college than students who primarily speak English. With these barriers in their way, achieving educational goals is only made more unattainable to students who don’t have the proper resources.
The Impact of Language Equalization
Not only does advocating and providing more resources for ELL students help students achieve their educational goals, but these efforts also tremendously help students socially. Demonstrating to the school community that language diversity is an important topic, encourages others to be inclusive of students who don’t primarily speak English. The social integration of students who are ELL is one of the biggest challenges that schools face. Students who face social barriers are much more likely to develop anxiety, depression, and face ostracization. If schools are unable to provide equal language opportunities for students who are learning English, the consequences that these students will face are tremendous. Beyond that, many ELL students are more likely to be facing socio-economic and socio-cultural barriers.
While solutions to bring more opportunities and equalized learning for ELL students can be difficult to articulate, we do know that making efforts to be inclusive positively impacts all students in the classroom. Aside from the usual solutions of more funding to linguistic programs and employing more bi-lingual teaching aids, the concept of utilizing more universal learning tools has recently been explored in more depth. Experts have recently argued that the use of video in the classroom for educational purposes, making school wide announcements, and even helping elevate educators is extremely effective. This is largely due to the visual nature of video. With the use of subtitles, schools can effectively communicate with students of several different linguistic backgrounds with just form of material. By utilizing video as a teaching tool, there could be more equal opportunities for ELL students and the gap between students can be further bridged. To this point, making small changes to pre-existing teaching tools, for example, switching to video rather than sending out another written announcement that many have trouble understanding, can have a tremendous impact on the inclusivity of ELL students.
The Time is Now
While language accommodations and the efforts to elevate students in need can feel daunting, there are a variety of resources available to help students academically achieve. Above all else, appreciating and caring for students of all linguistic backgrounds creates a culture of inclusivity. Goodsides offers language support for a diverse range of populations, resident and student groups, and visitors. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.