We must become familiar with the cultural values and beliefs of the Hispanic adult ESOL student
The needs of the group vs. the needs of the individual
In the Hispanic society, family or group needs take precedence over the needs of the individual. The same can be observed in an almost all Hispanic ESOL class. Hispanics tend to be brought up to be cooperative, whereas the Anglo culture typically encourages students to be more competitive and individualistic. When Hispanic students work in a group, not all are expected to do their equal share. A group member who does not happen to be working will not be offensive, while in an Anglo group of students, each is expected to do his/her share. The cooperative tendency of Hispanics can also be seen in sharing material objects and information. Sharing also means helping another student during a test, which is considered cheating in an Anglo culture. Recently, in the co-authors' ESOL class, composed of mostly Hispanics, a student was reprimanded by a non-Hispanic instructor for copying from another student's test Both students were stunned and offended, because to them, they were helping each other, not cheating.
Different perspectives about present and future
For most Hispanics, present time has more value than the future. For them, the time-dependent ways of the Anglo often look rather like a misappropriation of the present. Hispanics focus more on present needs and little change. Therefore, it would be more appropriate to expect Hispanic students to concentrate on short-term goals rather than long term ones. Hispanic students are more likely to accommodate the passage of time to their -needs, rather than to let time control them. This is why the ESOL teacher would be wise not to place a lot of emphasis on fast-moving and closely timed activities. This creates a very tense learning environment for the student who grew up in a relatively relaxed home atmosphere where minutes, hours, or days are rarely considered to be critical factors.
The communication style of Hispanics is much more formal than that of the Anglos. Respect is highly valued and shown by using formal titles. Hispanics tend to show affection through touching. Friends can kiss, males hug, shake hands or pat each other on the back. This has somewhat influenced Anglo behavior in recent times. Hispanics tend to be very polite, which can be interpreted by Anglos as being subservient or servile. Phrases like A sus ordenes (at your command), para servile a Usted (at your service), Mi reina (my queen) or mi rey (my king) are found in the daily repertoire of Hispanic expressions.
Hispanics have a very special way with children, a way that appears to be too permissive. It is very common to see small children in church, running toward the altar, and there, sitting down during a service. One hardly sees Hispanics spanking their children in public. When parents are annoyed, they tend to address their children with Usted. They also playfully call their small children papito (little papa) or mamita (little mama). Also, the older children of the family are expected to take care of the younger ones, but, nevertheless, the child is generally brought up to be very dependent on the parents which affects the child's decision making. In the traditional family, the child will have a strong sense of identity with his family, community and ethnic group.
Adapting to the environment rather than controlling it
The Hispanic tries to adjust to the universe and usually believes in metaphysical powers. When living in Mexico, the author observed very religious people, the majority belonging to the Catholic church. However, that did not prevent them from believing in witchcraft and the curadora or healing woman. Herbs play a significant role in healing and bring good luck.
The Hispanic student, as a rule, thrives more in a cooperative environment than in a competitive one. The uniqueness of the individual is more important than the individual accomplishment. The good of the whole is often more important than the individual's goals. There is also a tendency among Hispanic students to credit his/her achievement to destiny, fate and other metaphysical or religious circumstances rather than ability.
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