Missouri schools wait for thousands of students to come through the doors for the new school year. Many of those students won’t know the language–and some might not even know school.
Twenty years ago, about three-thousand Missouri students were ESL students—those to whom English is a second language. The state education department’s Craig Rector says two yers ago the number had gone past eighteen-thousand. And they spoke 98 languages.
Spanish speakers are the biggest number; then a combination of people from Bosnia, Coatia, and Serbia, then Vietnamese speaekrs, Arabic, and Somali. Rector says many of them are from situations where conditions and conflict have limited their education. In fact, some might never had had a chance to go to school.
But Rector says they catch on pretty fast, learning conversational English in a year or two. He says academic English takes longer, often four to seven years. He says younger students have an easier time.
Rector says the children sometimes become interpreters for their family. For many of those families, the relationship with the teacher and the school assumes special importance. Rector says that’s a reason some districts with a lot of English language learnes have social workers on their staffs.