Her heart began to thump loudly, and she took deep, heavy breaths. Senior Tao Tao Xing was tasked by her family to make a call to a health insurance operator, solely in English. She was bombarded with questions, struggling to string her words together.
Xing immigrated from China to the U.S. in June 2017. Although she was taught basic English in China, it was not enough to communicate in day-to-day conversations. Because her native language is Mandarin, she had trouble expressing her thoughts in English. Xing’s family desired a better education for her since China’s school system was stressful. Xing did not feel particularly emotional about immigrating. However, obstacles still remained, with the language barrier being the most notable.
“I was afraid of what people would think about my English,” Xing said. “During class, I was unable to comprehend the lessons because they went too fast and the vocabulary was above my level.”
To overcome the language barrier, Xing immersed herself in various activities to refine her skills, including journal writing and communicating with her online friends through games. However, reading books especially made an impact in her learning, which welcomed the most progress in both her grades and practical skills.
“Reading taught me how phrases are connected and how to structure a sentence and paragraph,” Xing said. “And even though learning English was not the main cause of me having good grades, it definitely helped. I did what I should do, completed all assignments, and worked hard on every test.”
Xing’s English skills have undoubtedly made life more convenient for her. From academic tasks to at-home duties, she completes these tasks with more ease and not to mention, confidence. She recognizes that there is room for more growth and hopes to keep connecting with teachers and peers, obtaining more experience by talking to them.
“Learning English made me more confident in conversations with natural English speakers as I am able to say what I want without feeling shy,” Xing said. “Academically, I am willing to take the lead in group projects—something I never dared to do before.”