Conversations of the Mind: The Uses of Journal Writing for Second-Language Learners

By Rebecca Williams Mlynarczyk | Go to book overview

6
Maribel: Tension Between
Private and Public Worlds

I believe that writing is a way of expressing your feelings and communicating with people. Writing is very important. We need writing almost for everything, but sometimes I don't like to write. It's difficult for me to express my ideas on a piece of paper. Sometimes I think that it is because my language, because when I recived letters from my friends, I love to answer them as soon as posible. I answer them in Spanish. Sometimes I like to write, but I try to disregard essays, it is to difficult to put things in order, I mean to express them. Specially in essays that you always have to give examples, and maybe you give them, but you are not sure if they are right or wrong. When I'm writing I'm always afraid to write something wrong, or write something that doesn't relate with the topic.

This was the first journal entry written by Maribel, a young woman who had emigrated from the Dominican Republic 4 years earlier at the age of 14. The members of Maribel's large family--she is the next-to-youngest of 13 children--came to the United States over a period of several years; Maribel was in the last group to arrive. Neither of her parents speak any English.

Knowing no English herself, she enrolled in a public high school. When she was not able to recite the alphabet in English during her admissions test, she was assigned to the lowest level of ESL and demoted from the tenth grade to the ninth. As she explained in one of her essays, "I couldn't believe it and I couldn't defend myself because I didn't know English."

At the beginning of her studies in the United States, Maribel was overwhelmed by her problems with the language. But she took an active and primarily social approach to language learning. She asked an older sister who had been here longer to help her, and she joined the Latin American Club at her high school, where she received extra help with English from other Spanish speakers. By her senior year in high school, she was succeeding in her studies and had also been elected president of the Latin American Club.

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