14 February 2018
I have come a long way down my road of learning how to read and write English throughout my life. My effort to learn to read and write English is a significant challenge in my life. Being an international student with the first language is Vietnamese, I had a hard time pushing myself into the world of English. Today, although I still have much to learn and struggle every day, I had made a better process than when I just came to the United States.
I began learning English in sixth grade in Vietnam. At that time, English only meant the alphabet to me. I felt quite comfortable playing with my twenty-six friends all day long. However, I tried to escape from its world when I met grammar, vocabulary and sentence structures in upper grades. Although I tried my best to memorize the grammars and the different kinds of vocabularies, I still had a challenging time to write a completed sentence or read in English. Moreover, I grew up in a small village in Vung Tau, Vietnam and did not expose to English through books, magazines, or TV like those who grew up in the city. Therefore, after graduating high school, I could not write, read or even speak much English. In high school, I was focused mostly on grammars and vocabularies than spending time with writing, or if I had to write, I just need to write two or three sentences to answer the question form the reading. Excepting that, I did not need to do with the essay or research paper in English, but I did them with my native language, which is Vietnamese.
When I first came to the United States from Vietnam about three years ago, I did not have much English to get ready for a new life. There were many difficulties I needed to overcome, and my English did not seem to solve any problem, so it was more difficult and lonely at first. I began attending a community college near my place after several months working at my aunt’s nail salon. In school, I started learning reading and writing English again through an ESL 055 which is an English as a Second Language class, and my first teacher was Ms. Holder. She had a bright trick to help her student in writing by rewriting a small paragraph from a newspaper or magazine but not looked at it, and I needed to memorize each sentence, then rephrase one by one until I finished the whole paragraph. I think it is such a useful way to help me get better in writing. Even until now, I still use this technique to improve my writing skill and to learn new vocabulary. In fact, while still taking my ESL classes, I did not think it is a helpful method to improve my writing, for it just wasted my time. Later, after moving English 101 which is a freshman academic writing class, I realized this method is such a great one to help me improve my writing skill, and I have been re-started using this technique recently.
Furthermore, as I took upper levels of ESL, I was required writing the more extended essay. A regular composition could be from two to four pages, and it was not easy at all for an ESL level. I remember when I took ESL 112 which is the highest level of ESL I started to do with the research papers, and the teacher who is Ms. Keith required a research paper with eight pages long. Writing a research paper is not easy for me at all, for it expects much information with the minimum mistakes while the more I write, the more errors I have. Therefore, writing a long essay has frustrated me all the time because I need to fulfill the teacher’s prompt. When doing the research paper, I usually take at least two days to find the topic and the sources to start my research paper. My teacher often recommends me to use the references in the library or use the all kind of the educational websites to do my research. Moreover, the sources need to be around five years back recently and not older than five years because of its accuracy. Not too different with other essays, I still do the draft before turning in the final papers for the research, for I can have a chance to fix all mistakes that I still have on the documents.
Following the next level, I took English 101 class as a requirement for transferring. All the knowledge I study in this course is not different with my previous levels. However, I learned how to break the paragraph down into more detail in this class. For example, the topic sentence should tell the reader what the article will explore. I also learned more about the types of essays like the analytical essay, argumentative essay, comparison and contrast essay, and cause and effect. In this class, I learned not only how to write an article but learn how to write a type of theme. Therefore, I need to know that what is the purpose of the essay I am writing about and organized it as a formula for the type of article. Moreover, in this level I need to do with many readings that I had never met in the previous levels. For example, I had to read a poem and analyze it to create an essay. At another time, I was required to read a short novel and wrote a thoughtful article based on the reading. The knowledge that I had acquired in the process of writing I have in class that helped me improve my writing skill. Because this level was doing with critical thinking, the process of putting words in the paper gives me a visible example of my thoughts and express the complex ideas.
As I continue my college studies, I now understand that writing skill is so essential to be successful in college. I must make an extra effort and take extra time on my own to try to learn more methods that help me improve my writing skill, especially doing more reading will support my writing more. As a bilingual student, I quickly make a mistake by translating from my native language to English in my essay, and I’m trying to avoid it as much as I can. I now realize that I have developed the capacity to understand and consequently appreciate literature. Besides, the experiences I have had in every English class have made me a better writer in the future and made the whole college experience worth it.