I Was An English Language Learner Essay

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After spending four years abroad for my father’s work from the ages of 5-9, my family returned to the United States and to American public schools. When my mother correctly wrote on my registration form that I spoke Portuguese and French in addition to English, I was slotted to be pulled out of class for language testing. I remember being told to leave class, but not being told what I was needed for. My tester’s conclusion of my performance was that I “needed observation.”
As a child of a multi-lingual and multi-ethnic family, I had always regarded my culture and aptitude for languages as a source of pride. I grew up speaking both English and Portuguese fluently, and picked up French with ease while living in Belgium. However, it became a tool wielded against me as a student. Because my school had unilaterally decided that I was an English language learner, I was classed as a second-tier student. The school reading specialist refused to grade me as reading above grade level, and my parents had to fight tooth and nail for me to be tested for eligibility for the gifted program. The ELL label was only removed from my file after a grade-wide standardized test showed that I was reading and writing well above the level of most of my peers. For quite some time, the label assigned to me heavily influenced how others perceived me, and led others to form misconceptions about me and my ability to learn.
In some ways, I felt I was lucky that I was able to bury my cultural identity…

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