Cliff: Unspoken Words
From the Deepest Part of the Mind
When I think about writing, the first thing that comes in my mind are words full of expressions and meaningful thoughts. Writing has been very helpful to me special[ly] since it has power over me, that lets out the unspoken words and thoughts from the deepest part of my mind. This might sound unusual but it's true. I don't often talk about death in my family or me being a diabetic. But in writing I usually write about these subjects.
With these words describing his attitude toward writing in English, Cliff began the journal he would keep for the rest of the semester. He had been born in Ethiopia and was a native speaker of Amharic, but had moved to the United States at the age of 14 after completing the ninth grade in his native country. He came to the United States to live with his older sister at the urging of his father, who wanted his son to master English and complete his education here. At the time of this study, Cliff was 21 years old and in his third semester of college. He had not yet decided on a major field of study but was considering engineering.
Before coming to the United States, Cliff had studied English for many years in Ethiopia, beginning in the first grade, when he learned the English alphabet. He began reading in English in the third grade, starting with "popular things" and year by year developing his English. By the time he entered the ninth grade, all of his classes, except for Amharic, were taught in English. As Cliff explained, "Whether you want it or not, you have to speak English." Doing well in English is essential to moving on to higher education. Students in Cliff's school were tested in the sixth and eighth grades to determine whether they could continue with their schooling. The