At the end of winter term, several students in the Advanced Plus class were so enthusiastic about their experience that they volunteered to write the following short essays for the blog. Elvia is from Colombia, and Abdallah is from Sudan. Thanks to both!
Learning about Different Cultures in Our Advanced Plus Class
By Elvia Cortés
In this competitive business world to be successful and get a better job, we need to learn English. A good option for all new immigrants who arrive in Washington, DC, is the Washington English Center, located in Our Lady Queen of the Americas Church.
WEC offers a high quality, affordable English language program, a good computer lab with programs to learn English, and a warm and welcoming environment to support students.
In the winter term, for example, we focused on American values, attitudes and cultural patterns. It’s a very important topic, not only for foreign businesspeople, visiting scholars, or government officials, but even for tourists.
Culture influences every single aspect of business communication: how to show politeness and respect; how much information to give; how to motivate people; when, how much, and how loudly to talk and laugh; how to organize a letter; even what size paper to use.
Let me compare the two cultures: North American and Latin American. One is an individualist society and the other a collective society, so we have different relationship styles and communication patterns that can generate conflict and misunderstanding.
Each Latin country has its own particular history and cultural background. Latin cultures are the result of their Indian, Spanish, African, French and, lately, North American heritage.
Latinos are sensitive, warm, affectionate and demonstrative; as a group we tend to avoid competition or activities that will set us apart from our own group. For Latinos, the parents, the family, and the friends are the most important in life. Family members visit one another frequently.
American ideas of self-reliance and equality within the family are necessary to sustain the ideals of freedom, democracy and progress. In an individualist society like the United States, communication is more efficient than in a collective society. American people speak directly and to the point, while the word “No” for Latino people can hurt relationships.
Finally, I consider that every culture is right in its own way and to be bicultural is as useful as to be bilingual. Each culture can contribute. Latinos can learn and understand from Americans their traditional value system: to be self-reliant, to be competitive and hard workers. Americans can learn about the contributions of the Latino community in the United States. Both cultures share the same Continent, and Spanish is the most spoken non-English language in U.S.A. homes. Americans can learn more about our countries and our culture, and share and enjoy our delicious food recipes.
Why We Love the Washington English Center
By Abdallah Abualgasim
We are honored to be students at Washington English Center and we would like to say thanks very much to the WEC administration and all its staff for giving us this great opportunity to learn the English language in the United States and helping us grow as immigrants.
And we would like to say a humble thank you very much to our great teachers. We appreciate their devoted efforts and their punctuality, focus, good explanations, and smiling faces. Kehan and Chris, Louise and Larry, Kelsey and Josh, Cathy and Alayna — we love all of you and God bless you.
We love, admire and cherish this place because it gives us a chance we believe we can’t get elsewhere right now. Among the strong points of WEC are these:
- WEC is a good program that helps us improve our English skills!
- WEC has qualified teachers who have experience with different types of immigrants and who are committed to their teaching.
- WEC gives us a good opportunity to meet people from different countries and cultures, which makes the classes very interesting.
- The teachers are of different ages and professions and have different teaching styles.
- The rooms are comfortable.
- The books are good.
We are wondering if WEC could offer these things:
- More slang, idioms, expressions, and grammar
- More tips on American culture, for example, living in DC
- More pictures and videos
- TOEFL exam preparation class
- More information about US laws, including workers’ rights
I think we could have some activities like drama, acting scenes from our experience, writing poems, and singing at the end of the semester.
We learned a lot this winter, including these idioms:
- Thank God it’s Friday
- Give someone an earful
- Not all things that glitter are Gold
- Brown bag
- Pink slip
- Turn the other cheek