A Linguistic Ethnography of my Family
At the young age of 16, my father traveled alone in 1980, crossing two seas and one ocean, to arrive in the dream country, a place said to be the land of opportunity, where everyone and anyone could make it, as long as they work hard enough. As his plane touched down on the runway and my father realized where he was, his heart dropped. He was alone, going to live with an uncle he had never met. He carried with him just $100, a slip of paper with his uncle’s address and no knowledge of the English language. How could a man, without a job or money, survive in a country where he could not even communicate with the people around him?
In his home in India, my father and his family solely spoke Gujarati, an ...view middle of the document...
My father attended high school and college in America. High school was where he learned much of his English, taking ESL classes, staying in school for extra hours afterschool with teachers that helped him overcome his linguistic impediment. Not only did he have to learn to speak the language, but he also had to learn to read and write all over again. His uncle helped my father in any moment of free time, contributing greatly to his success in learning. Unfortunately, the high school experience only lasted two years, as my father had become old enough for college, yet his language skills still lacked greatly. He attended Kean University, in Union, NJ, after moving to Elizabeth, NJ. There, although his English had improved from knowing none to at least some, he faced many difficulties. During lectures, he constantly had to pay close attention and still did not understand many things the teachers would say. He had trouble communicating with his peers and teachers, and so getting the help he needed became difficult. As for money, with no family in Elizabeth, he worked with the other immigrants in the area, doing labor jobs in a nearby factory, or stacking boxes in small family owned stores.
Every moment my dad spent in America, fighting the language barrier to be successful has affected me. He had worked a full-time job since the age of 16 to make enough money to survive, while still spending countless hours with teachers and in the library to learn the language of this new country he was thrown into. His sufferings inspire me to be the best I can, as I know that immigrants to this country have never had it easy, but he is a prime example of how a language barrier is not enough to stop someone determined to live the American Dream.