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Digging Deeper: The Many Languages of Delaware English Learner Students

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Delaware’s English learner (EL) population is the fastest growing student demographic in the state—seeing some 400 to 600 percent increases in the last decade, depending on what county you are in. ELs are a diverse group of students representing a vast number of languages, cultures, ethnicities, nationalities, and social, economic, and educational backgrounds.

 

They are students with limited English (language) proficiency who, because of foreign birth or ancestry, speak a language other than English. They account for eight percent—approximately 10,000 individuals—of the student population and three out of four are American-born. They collectively speak nearly 100 unique, native languages. And though ELs comprehend, read, or write little or no English when they enroll in school, studies have shown that students that later identity as multilingual or have exposure to another language, show signs of higher cognitive ability, a greater likelihood of economic benefit, and foster greater empathy for their peers and community.

In an effort to promote awareness about this population of Delaware students, a new series of fact sheets launched by the Delaware Hispanic Commission, the Arsht-Cannon Fund, Delaware English Language Learners Teachers and Advocates, and the Rodel Foundation of Delaware will provide specific insight to the life of an EL, how the state is serving this community, and more.

 

Click here to learn more about Delaware’s EL students. And here are just some of the 90+ languages spoken by less than one percent of ELs:

 

Language: Afrikaans

Where? Afrikaans is a West Germanic language, and part of the Indo-European language family, and primarily spoken in South Africa, Namibia and to some extent, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

By the numbers: About 86 Delaware EL student speak Afrikaans. However, there are 7.1 million native speakers of the language, with some 10.3 million second-language speakers.

Common Phrase:Lekker eet!” … “Have a nice meal!”

Fun Fact: Afrikaans is the youngest official language in the world, only having replaced Dutch in 1983.

 

Language: Gujarati

Where? An Indo-Aryan language native to the India state of Gujarat.

By the numbers: Around 84 Delaware EL students speak Gujarati, but worldwide there are around 50 million speakers, making it the 26th-most-spoken native language in the world.

Common phrase: “નાણું મળશે પણ ટાણું નઈ મળે” … “Choose time over money.”

Fun Fact: Gujarati was the first language of Mahatma Gandhi and Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

 

Language: Tagalog

Where? An Austronesian language native to the Philippines.

By the numbers: About 42 Delaware EL students speak Taglog, with 28 million first-language speakers and some 45 million second-language speakers. It is both a national and minority-recognized language in the Philippines.

Common phrase:Mabuhay” … “long live,” “cheers,” or, “welcome.”

Fun Fact: The English word ‘boondocks’ is actually a Filipino loanword. The Tagalog word for ‘mountain’ is ‘bundok.’

 

Language: Marathi

Where? Marathi is an Indian language spoke predominantly by the Marathi people of Maharashtra. It is one of the 22 scheduled languages of India.

By the numbers: About 18 Delaware EL students speak Marathi, each of whom are a part of the 73 million people that speak it worldwide. With this figure, it ranks 19th in the list of most spoken languages in the world.

Common phrase: “सुप्रभात” … “Good morning.” “शुभ रात्री” … “Good night.”

Fun fact: The Marathi script consists of 16 vowels and 36 consonants—making a 52 character alphabet.

 

Language: Ga

Where? Ga is a Kwa language spoken in Ghana, in and around the capital city of Accra.

By the numbers: About three Delaware EL students speak Ga. There are less than one million—745,000—speakers worldwide.

Common phrase: “Eŋɔɔ minaa akɛ mile bo ekpe.” … “I am pleased to meet you.”

Fun fact: Ga is just one of the 16 languages published by the Bureau of Ghana Languages, despite the relatively low number of dialectal variation.

 

Language: Czech

Where? Czech, historically known as Bohemian, is a West Slavic language and official language of the Czech Republic.

By the numbers: Approximately three Delaware EL students speak Czech amongst the 10.7 million native speakers worldwide.

Common Phrase: “Smím prosit?” … “Would you like to dance?”

Fun fact: The U.S. Foreign Institute has ranked Czech the second most difficult language to learn—with a special note to the formal and informal iterations of the language.

 

Language: Navajo

Where? The language is a South Athabaskan language of the Na-Dene family, which is related to the languages spoken across the western states of North America. It is primarily spoke in the Southwestern United States.

By the numbers: Approximately one Delaware EL student speaks Navajo. There are about 170,000 native speakers. There has been a struggle to keep a healthy speaker base, but has somewhat been alleviated by the extent of education programming on the Navajo Nation.

Common phrase: “tʼáá hó ájítʼéego tʼéiyá” … “Just do it,” “it’s up to you,” or “that’s all it takes (take responsibility for yourself).”

Fun fact: Despite being among the best-documented native American languages, it was used as a code language during WWII due to no Navajo dictionaries being published.

Digging Deeper: Physical Health Impacts Education, Too

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In Delaware, and across the nation, schools are providing a deeper focus on both social and emotional learning and physical health. Next month, community members, educators, and policymakers from across the state will converge at the University of Delaware to talk about the intersection of health and education at the 10th Annual Vision Coalition Conference.

 

We often hear about the correlation between higher levels of education and higher salaries and lower unemployment rates. And we know that a person with a higher level of education is more likely to move up the socio-economic ladder, be an active citizen, have a better understanding of political issues, and more likely to vote in elections. However, we don’t often hear about the relationship between educational attainment and health—despite the fact that a positive relationship exists.

 

Students with high levels of education are also more likely to enjoy healthier lifestyles—reducing health care costs over time as they exercise more, smoke less, and experience lower rates of obesity. So how are Delaware youth doing when it comes to physical health?

 

A survey of Delawareans ages found that overall, children and youth are exceeding the Center for Disease Control’s recommended 60 minutes of physical activity daily. Still, as students get older, they typically spend less time exercising. The Center of Disease Control reported physically active students tend to perform better academically, have better memory, and exhibit on-task behavior—all traits necessary for academic success.

 

In fact, the CDC suggests a complimentary relationship between health and education—that is, the healthier your lifestyle, the better your academic performance (and social and emotional skills) and the higher your educational attainment/academic performance, the greater the likelihood you live a healthy lifestyle.

 

Of course, physical health alone will not win high academic marks on its own. Access to quality, comprehensive, and coordinated family-centered care is attributed to higher in-school performance and a lower likelihood of risky behavior.

 

On average, just six out of 10 of all Delaware children have access to adequate medical care. However, there are still major disparities between children of color and their white peers. For example, more than 60 percent of Hispanic/Latino children in Delaware do not have access to the adequate medical care.

 

As this field continues to expand, it is important to note that developing the “whole child” is not a new idea. In recent years, there has been a renewed focus on providing students with social and emotional learning, physical and mental health development, nutrition, and exposure to the arts. The incorporation of social and emotional skills—communication, collaboration, critical thinking, empathy, and creativity—along with strong academic components has generated positive outcomes for children in Delaware and beyond. (For more information on Rodel’s engagement in the area of social and emotional learning, visit our website here.)

 

Despite the gains in both areas of health and education, Delaware still has a lot of work to do in setting up our young people for successful lives after graduation.

 

Want to get involved? Here are some local groups leading the charge.

 

  • Delaware Readiness Teams are working in communities throughout the state to ensure kids are healthy and ready to hit the ground running in kindergarten by advocating and promoting developmental screenings, referral, and follow-up services; making sure families receive information on children’s health and developmental milestones; and, promoting alongside families’ activities that education on health and wellness.

 

Want to learn more? Visit our blog for more developments or our posts on the whole child approach, our latest screening of “Resilience,” and more.

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