A Way to A Second Language I can never forget the worst and the most terrible period time of my childhood life. It was more than four years ago when my family and I left my country, Vietnam, to move to Houston, Texas. We came to the United States to gather with my brother and sisters. In Vietnam, I had read something about the United States School, but I could not really know everything. Therefore, I encounter many difficult things that I never had expected happening to me. I still remember one very cold and cloudy winter day when I caught a bus to Kempner High School, one of the high schools in Fort Bend County. That was the first day I attended an American school. It was strange and scary. Right after leaving the bus, I was handed my class schedules and went upstairs looking for the classroom. A woman standing on the hallway stopped me and asked, Where are you going? Of course, I could handle a simple question like that, so I answered, I m going to my class. and I showed my class schedule to her. Then she took me to an office to meet a man who later happened to be our ESL teacher. Likewise, he tried to explain in different ways to make us understand, but he still failed anyhow. At that time, I felt like an idiot. I was not sure I was still on earth or not. I hated foreign language. I kept asking myself why human beings have so many different languages. At this time, my ESL teacher got a new initiative in helping me. Instead of using language to communicate, he used to find a Vietnamese student to be my translator in lunchtime. I never felt so happy to see any Vietnamese person before. The student was very nice. She did not only translate what the teacher said but also told me some differences between American and Vietnamese school that she thought I needed to know. In Vietnam, she explained, students can go to their classroom before the first class bell rings. Students stay in the same classroom for all classes, and they do not have lunchtime break because morning classes end at noon, and afternoon classes start at 12:30. Conversely, in America, middle school students have to stay in the lunchroom until the first class bell rings, and they also have lunchtime break shown on their schedule because classes do not finish until 2:30. Although the conversation lasted only a few minutes before the bell rang, it was very helpful for us. Ironically, before I came to Houston, I had been a middle school student in Vietnam also, but at that time I could not do any schoolwork because I did not even know what was happening in my classes. On the first week at school, I skipped all class assignments because I did not understand what teachers told me to do. I just sat in every class quietly and sadly thinking of a dark future. Many questions came to my mind: Why must I be here? Am I becoming dumb or what? When will I ever be used to this life? Of course, I could not answer my own questions. When I was in Vietnam, I never had felt such boring and unenjoyable of school. If it had not been for my parents, I would have quit school right then and gone back home to Vietnam.
When the first week passed, my teachers discovered that they had not received any work from me. They came and asked me why. I told them that I do not understand English; therefore, they requested the ESL department to give me more help. However, how could they help me if they could not communicate with me?My hard work helped me to discover that I did not understand English through sound, but I still understood English by reading from paper. From that time on, whenever I wanted to speak to somebody, I usually wrote down everything on a paper and handed to that person, and I did not forget to ask them to write back what they said to me. Luckily, the method really worked; I could communicate with people.The first semester ended. My grades were not bad. Meanwhile, my name was usually on the outstanding lists of my Science, Math and ESL classes. However, I felt no more than a deaf and mute person. I did not talk to anybody in my school, even Vietnamese students. Although students in my classes did not make fun of my accent and pronunciation, I could perceive that I was weird and different from other people. Sometimes, I thought I would be better if I attended school for deaf and mute people because maybe I could feel the same.The fall semester came. I could hear and understand some of what was going on in my classes, but I was too shy to speak to anyone. Whenever I wanted to say something, I did not know how to put words together that people would understand. It would be easier if I wrote everything I wanted to say on a paper first and then just read it to them. I was also afraid that my accent would make them laugh. My ESL teacher always encouraged me to speak in his class. I spoke as an one-year-old baby.By that time, my English improved, and I could understand and speak to people. The moment I was really proud of for a long time was the time I walked up the stage and received my middle school diploma. Finally, my hard work was rewarded. After middle school graduation, I have attended the Kempner high school for four years. Everything seems to be back to normal now, except my speaking skill still has some problem. I do not know how to teach me to speak perfectly. However, I only know that the first and most important step that I should do now is practice speaking English more and whenever I have chance because the more I practice, the faster and better I can talk.