Rediscovering community in America: a study of a Chinese adult ESL class

Many Chinese immigrants come to the United States after their retirement to be reunited with their grown children. However, Chinese immigrants are faced with many challenges in an unfamiliar society. To facilitate their transition to the United States, many enroll in a class to study English as a second language (ESL). This qualitative study examined a class of older adult Chinese students and the underlying factors that influenced their learning English as a second language. Data about influential factors was gathered through student surveys, interviews, analysis of student journals and teacher observation. Data indicated that the learning ofEnglish for older Chinese students in this group was affected by the following factors: uncertainty of changing physical health, difficulties iri making sense of a language that is so unlike their primary language, engrained Chinese cultural values that had become so much a part of their lives, conflicts between their cultural values and the values they encountered in the United States, and the ethnic identity they came with and the ethnic identity of their children. Methods of improving the teaching of adult ESL were also investigated. It was found that bilingual instruction and a culturally meaningful curriculum supported the learning of adult Chinese students involved in this study. One additional factor that had a positive influence on students was the physical context of learning. The class itself served as a center that provided students with social experiences and resources that helped bridge students' adjustment to a new community in the United States.