Language TA’s learn, teach without borders

Alex Jensen, Staff writer

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In 2017, less than 30 percent of the people who sought asylum in France were officially recognized. Several European countries also increased their border security and became more militarized in reaction to the “migrant crisis.”

In a talk titled “Teaching without borders” on Wednesday, Spanish language teaching assistant, Patricia Luis Hernandez, and the French language teaching assistant, Lucile Marion, shared their own perceptions of the crisis and what teaching has taught them.

Marion said teaching has taught her to strive for “equality for more people and to understand more people with different backgrounds.”

Working with migrants can be difficult because people are coming from all different backgrounds, beliefs and values. Luis Hernandez faced a situation in her classroom where one of her students was against same-sex marriage and rights.

“I’m just teaching the language. I cannot change your thoughts,” Luis Hernandez said to the student because Spain has same-sex marriage laws.

Luis Hernandez worked in Budapest for two years with the European Voluntary Service. The EVS’ motto is “the street is no place to call home.” The Budapest government has a law against people sleeping outside in the city.

Those that are caught sleeping in public places could be fined, sentenced to community service or imprisoned. The EVS provides shelters to those who cannot find or afford housing.

Luis Hernandez said the experience taught her how to communicate with people who speak a different language than her because she did not understand Hungarian well. Hungarian is the official language in Budapest, where 99.6 percent of the population speak it, according to the CIA World Factbook.

In 2016, she moved to the Spanish city of Alicante for a year to work with the Red Cross and adult education center. For the year she there, she taught English and Spanish to immigrants and Syrian families. Luis Hernandez had six months to teach them the language to ensure that they would be able to stay and work in the country.

Marion worked with an independent organization in France, which provided administrators and French language classes to foreign students. With the organization, she taught a French class to six men and one woman, the majority of them were from Afghanistan, to prepare them to earn a DELF.

DELF “are diplomas awarded by the French Ministry of Education to prove the French-language skills of non-French candidates” according to the DELF website.

Marion thought the experience was interesting because of the classroom dynamic. She was used to teaching those younger than her but found it was the opposite situation with the program. Marion said she felt shy at first because she was teaching people older than her.

Both Marion and Luis Hernandez disagree with the term migrant “crisis”; they believe that the word “crisis” has dehumanized the people looking for asylum in European countries.

At the time Luis Hernandez was in Hungary, the government was preventing refugees from accessing the train stations, which would allow them to get to Germany. The government also built a fence between Budapest and Serbia.

While she worked in Spain, the Spanish government did not accept all the refugees it committed to. The government made a commitment to host 70,000 refugees.

Luis Hernandez said it would take 23 years to reach that number at the rate the government is letting people in.

Marion said in France, the refugees face a different kind of issue. Those seeking asylum might face police brutality and legal harassment.

The French government passed an asylum and immigration law that has been called highly repressive. It introduced fines or a 1-year jail term to those caught illegally crossing the border within the European Union. It also cuts the waiting time on asylum applications from 11 months to six, which gives people half the amount of time to appeal if their refugee status is denied.