This chapter employs findings from 6 months of ethnographic observations with four Salvadoran first-generation immigrant women living in a suburban neighborhood in the western United States. We document these women’s authentic experiences with navigating everyday linguistic interactions in Spanish and English, showing how the women’s participation in Salvadoran and other Latinx communities curtails much of their need for daily English but that their desires to fulfil economic and other long-term goals motivate them to improve their English, even with few opportunities to do so. We document the assets, strategies, and skills the women use when the need for English does arise (usually in a small set of routine contexts), often with success despite their limited English proficiency, then close by proposing general recommendations to ESL programs based on these observations.
- English as a second language
- Salvadoran women
- Community-based learners
- Latinx enclaves
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Throughout the study, we refer to the participants and other members of their community using the term ‘Latinx’. However, it is worth noting that the women themselves used the terms ‘Latino’ and ‘Latina’ to refer to themselves and others.
Since much ethnographic writing relies on the narration of firsthand experiences (conducted, in this case, by Watkins only), we made the decision to use a first-person voice throughout sections of the paper that directly address the ethnographic findings.
I used the Straightforward Quick Placement Test, a grammar- and vocabulary-based ESL placement test produced by a popular textbook company (Macmillan Publishers) and used in ESL programs to match students with the appropriate level of curriculum materials.
All names that appear in the study, including those of all participants and the other people/places in their community, are pseudonyms except for the names of large chains like Sam’s Club, McDonald’s, or Walmart.
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I (Watkins) wish to thank Luciana, Mariela, Julissa, and Carmen (as well as their families), who opened their homes and lives to me and dedicated countless hours to helping me. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to work with them and for the relationships I have built with them.
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Watkins, K., Thompson, G., Rosborough, A., Eckstein, G., Eggington, W. (2021). Identifying Language Needs in Community-Based Adult ELLs: Findings from an Ethnography of Four Salvadoran Immigrants in the Western United States. In: Warriner, D.S. (eds) Refugee Education across the Lifespan. Educational Linguistics, vol 50. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-79470-5_14
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