Hola to a new wave of Spanish-speaking students at BHSS

Quinley Bowden, Staff Writer

It’s not uncommon for Shirin Ansari, a Spanish teacher at South, to leave her classroom unexpectedly to provide translation help for Spanish-speaking students in other classrooms. Special education and German teacher Very Frye has been trying to learn Spanish with an app so she can help her students. And biology teacher Kirstin Milks has been using a translation tool to convert wind to “viento” in her lessons.

There has been a recent influx of Latinx students to school this year. There are many explanations for why this may be happening.

 Karen Banach, the ENL (English as a New Language) teacher, explained that “There’s a natural ebb and flow to when [we] get people coming from certain countries.” In the past, there have been waves of Arabic, Hispanic, Chinese, and Korean speaking students attending BHSS. Banach believes that the fluctuation may have something to do with migration patterns or how many visas are available in certain countries at different times. It could also be caused by the many people from Mexico, Central America, and South America who have recently immigrated to the US following the election of President Biden.

Many of the Spanish teachers have been very helpful with translating for these students. Banach added that Shirin Ansari specifically has been extremely helpful, but “if [she] called on any of [the Spanish teachers] to help out, of course, they would.” We also have specific translators who come and help non-fluent families work with the school system. 

Eleventh grader, Ana DeFreitas, explained that one thing she enjoys about Bloomington South is that she gets much more help on makeup work than she did when she lived in Miami. She states that “I really wanted to move here, but getting to the United States is difficult because you don’t know the language.” Being one of these many Hispanic students experiencing these ups and downs of this change, is having to quickly adapt to this new environment as well as her fellow ENL students.

Hispanic families come from a variety of countries every year. Banach explained that, “Over the past several years, we’ve had a large influx of Venezuelans coming in, but there’s not one particular country that we’re getting a lot of influx from right now.” 

Some of these students have gone through very challenging times while living in their home country, so moving to Bloomington could be a relief for them. However, the immigration process can be extremely stressful for not only the students, but their families as well. Banach explained that “these students can be overwhelmed by the language, culture, food, and school. Everything is overwhelming.” 

Many of these students may go through a silent period at first, where they don’t engage with many other people and are very quiet. Some of them may only engage with the people that speak their own language or share the same culture as them. This period can last anywhere from a few days to a year. 

Banach said that, “It takes one to two years to be socially fluent in a language, and it takes three to five years to be academically fluent in a language. So you have to think that they spend a good portion of their time here, struggling with academic work.”

BHSS isn’t the only school that has many ENL students. MCCSC has about 400 English learners that represent over 40 languages. Of the ENL students, 24%  speak Spanish, which is the most common language spoken by the English learners of MCCSC. The other most common languages spoken at MCCSC are Chinese, Korean, and Arabic.