Independence Day: Lessons in ESL

It's July 4th. To celebrate Independence Day in the spirit in which the holiday was founded, for the second year in a row we turn to a post from MomSpeaker Raya Fagg, who teaches English as a second language to people who choose to come to America in search of the same things our Founding Fathers fought for: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Here's her moving perspective.

The Fourth of July is also known as Independence Day in America. On this day in 1776, the original 13 states separated from the control of the United Kingdom. The real date of independence is July 2, 1776, but The Declaration of Independence was created on July 4th. This is the day that everyone remembers.

The Declaration of Independence contains the well-known quote “all men are created equal.” It wasn’t until 1865 until slavery was abolished and this phrase included men of color.

Independence Day takes a new meaning for me as I continue to immerse myself in other cultures through ESL class. As we discussed independence, one woman huffed and puffed until I asked her what was wrong.

M is from Liberia, and she schooled the class in what independence and freedom meant to her. Americans don’t appreciate what we have, she explained. In her home country, if you’re poor, you’re poor. End of story. At least in America, there is assistance for those with no money. In Liberia, if you don’t like the government and speak about it, you pay through the death of your family, friends or self. In America, you can dislike President Obama and it’s your right to do so. Being in America is her freedom.

Others chimed in as well. H from Cambodia explained how being in America gives her the freedom to do things she would never be able to do as a woman in her mother country. P from Cameroon also expressed that in America, she is free to get an education without fear of reprisal from her father’s family for “wasting money” educating a girl.

As fractured as she is, I appreciate America, despite the racism, sexism, ageism. After hearing these stories and getting to know the new residents as they practice pronunciation and wrap their tongues and minds around some of the slang they beg to learn, I celebrate Independence Day with a gusto and reverence that I never had in the past.

This Friday, in between barbecues and before jamming to The Roots on the Parkway, make an effort to visit the Betsy Ross House at 1:30 PM or the Liberty Bell for two special Naturalization Ceremonies. Try speaking to some of the newest Americans, and get a renewed feeling for Independence and America.

For the newest residents preparing for citizenship, here are the questions that focus on July 4th.

What did the Declaration of Independence do?

  • announced our independence (from Great Britain)
  • declared our independence (from Great Britain)
  • said that the United States is free (from Great Britain)

What are two rights in the Declaration of Independence?

  • life
  • liberty
  • pursuit of happiness

Why did the colonists fight the British?

  • because of high taxes (taxation without representation)
  • because the British army stayed in their houses (boarding, quartering)
  • because they didn’t have self-government

Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?

  • (Thomas) Jefferson

When was the Declaration of Independence adopted?

  • July 4, 1776

There were 13 original states. Name three.

  • New Hampshire
  • Massachusetts
  • Rhode Island
  • Connecticut
  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Delaware
  • Maryland
  • Virginia
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Georgia

Why does the flag have 13 stripes?

  • because there were 13 original colonies
  • because the stripes represent the original colonies

Why does the flag have 50 stars?*

  • because there is one star for each state
  • because each star represents a state
  • because there are 50 states

What is the name of the national anthem?

  • "The Star-Spangled Banner"

When do we celebrate Independence Day?*

  • July 4

Name two national U.S. holidays.

  • New Year’s Day
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • Presidents’ Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Veterans Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas

Raya Fagg is a mom of two from Upper Darby, PA. This post is adapted from her blog, And Starring As Herself…MRSRFKJ.

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MomSpeak Contributors

Trish Adkins, Yoke
Jennifer Auer, Jersey Family Fun
Chris Bernholdt, DadNCharge
Stacy Heenan Biscardi, Wifty & Shifty
Hillary Chybinski, My Scraps
EJ Curran, Four Little Monsters
Darla DeMorrow, The Pregnant Entrepreneur
Rachée Fagg, Say It Rah-Shay
Raya Fagg, And Starring As Herself…MRSRFKJ
Mara Gorman, The Mother of All Trips
Stephanie Glover, A Grande Life
Erin Flynn Jay, Mastering the Mommy Track
Jean Ladden, Jean's Book Reviews
Brie Latini, ( . . . a breezy life)
Toni Langdon, Tickles and Time Outs
Lisa Lightner, A Day in Our Shoes
Jeanine Ludwikowski, Mommy Entourage
Kathryn M. Martin, Mamacado
Jeanne McCullough, Mom Hearts Pinot
Trina O'Boyle, O’Boy! Organic
Kelly Raudenbush, My Overthinking
Lindsey Schuster, Sisters to Sons
Sandra Telep, West Philly Mama
Marissa Kiepert Truong, Land of Once Upon a Time
Lisa Weinstein, The Mixed Up Brains of Lisa Weinstein
Shivaun Williams, Dar Liomsa (In My Opinion)
Paige Wolf, Spit That Out!

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