In Every Language We Smile


Francisco Acuna, Reporter

The sign on her classroom door says, “In every language we smile.” That is much the case in Mrs. Sciacca’s classroom. For those of you who don’t know, Mrs. Sciacca is the English as a Second Language teacher here at Sahuaro. In this class students from across the world are learning English, and some find it difficult  to learn another language while also adjusting to another culture.

Surprisingly, students in ESL are never given translations of what they are learning in English to their native language. Mrs. Sciacca says, “In an ESL class, we teach teach English the same way a first language is taught. As a baby, nobody could speak to you in ‘baby language’. You were surrounded by the language, and picked it up.” There is a diverse group of languages in Mrs. Sciacca’s class, such as: Chinese, Arabic, Vietnamese, Spanish, and French. Seemingly this would complicate things even more, but when asked, Mrs. Sciacca said, ” I don’t need to know their language in order to teach them English. They just need to listen to what I’m saying and repeat what I’m saying.  They’re learning English the same way they did their first language.”

Most of the students in the ESL course have studied English previously as a second language, much like students throughout the nation studying  Spanish and French. “I have been studying English for a total of about eight years, and I’ve been living here in the U.S. for three years,” says senior Amy Chen, who is originally from China. At times, the English course can be difficult for the students because of the fact that it’s taught the way a first language is. “We are taught purely in English…at times it can be frustrating because you just want to know the meaning of what you’re learning, but often there are expressions that cannot be translated into your language, so you just have to think of how it would be said in your language,” says senior Said Reynolds, who is from Mexico.

Mrs. Sciacca relates well to her students who are learning English as she herself went through it. Mrs. Sciacca’s first language was Italian, and though her older brother taught her some vocabulary, she learned most of her English in school like her students. Mrs. Sciacca felt that it was very natural for her to choose this career because as a child she was often a translator for her parents.

“The best way for anyone to know another language is to immerse themselves in it and go to a country that speaks the language… and also make friends with whom you can practice the language you’re learning,” says Mrs. Sciacca. So, if you meet an ESL student, hold conversation with them, and become friends. Not only will you help them to improve their English, but you will also get to learn about another culture and hear about interesting experiences.