Seniors Speak: Learning English at an older age

A woman sitting at a desk while reading and holding a pencil - learning English

Learning English is a challenge for everyone, especially older people. Read to learn how one immigrant’s life changed for the better when she learned English

“You can not learn English at an old age,” I heard it from friends when I decided to learn English as a second language.

My name is Fatema, and I am a Syrian refugee in USA. I came to the U.S. on August 5th, 2016 with my son’s family. When I landed and went outside the airport in Chicago, I felt everything was different to me.

Culture, traditions, language, food, and weather were all different to me.

I only speak one language, and it is Arabic. I could not communicate with people easily. I had to find someone to translate for me, every time I go shopping, to doctors, and anything else I wanted. It was an issue for me because I am an independent person who does everything by herself and rarely depends on the others. I also believe that I do not want to be a burden on anyone.

I started having signs of depression. I was crying and feeling sad every time I remembered how I was living in Syria. I am still missing my country and people I knew there and no longer knew where they are or where they live. I am a very social person. I wanted most of my time to be with people to laugh and talk again as I used to do. The number of Arabs are few and they do have responsibilities in their lives such as taking care of their kids, going to work, and so on.

Learning English helped me to overcome the issue with depression by getting along with people from different culture and socializing with them. It was fun to learn about other people’s culture and traditions.

Learning English also helped me to prove to people that there are no age limits to learn new things in life. There were so many people told me that it is too late to learn English at my age. I felt sad every time they said it to me because I was expecting them to encourage me, not to demoralize me. I said to myself, it is never too late to learn new things – ever.

I encouraged myself to not listen to them and find a school to learn English. I finished all four levels and I graduated from that school.

It was really an amazing experience that I can not forget ever. Because I do not want to forget the language, I decided to keep learning and practice it with a volunteer mentor.

Also, learning English helped me to gain my confidence back and feel happy that I am able to learn new things and do everything by myself. I felt so happy that I can still accomplish anything I wanted and prove to people that. And, I felt happier when my determination was strong enough to not stop learning when most of my classmates were younger than me in the classroom.

If I listened to people who demoralized me at first, I would not learn English and overcome depression, and I would depend on people to do anything I wanted while I am living in my new country.

My advice to the readers is to have a strong determination in doing what they want as long it lets them become happier in the long run.

Information from the Refugee Center Online

Refugees shaking hands

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