Naghem S., our regular contributor & Plaza staff member writes:

I came to the United States when I was seven. Within a month I was enrolled in school. Now something

to keep in mind is that I have never been to school before, so to say that I was scared would be an understatement. I remember my first day of school and how utterly terrified I was. Everyone around me was speaking this alien language, and I had no idea what they were saying or what I was doing. I cried when the teacher took us to gym, and I cried some more when we went to lunch. Imagine spending 8 hours in a building full of strangers that speak this weird language that you don’t understand, and you have no idea what is going to happen to you next. When my mother and father picked me up from school, I ran into their arms sobbing that I never wanted to go back there ever again.

Naturally I went back the next day.

I don’t remember learning English. Maybe it was due to my young age, or maybe my brain decided to block out the learning process but try as I might, I can’t seem to remember the struggles and the hardships. It was like I woke up one day, and BOOM, I knew English. I’ve been lucky, I guess, to have been introduced to English at such a young age.

As a Plaza employee, one of my responsibilities is running an English Conversation table, and often times that can mean teaching English as a second language. The participants who show up week after week, dedicated to learning this amazing language are my heroes. English is not the easiest language to learn because sometimes the rules don't apply to everything and exceptions usually are the rules. Confusing, right? Yeah, I still get confused to this day about some of the rules, and I can’t even begin to imagine how my participants feel. Their strength and dedication in learning a new language is so motivating and beautiful that sometimes I just pause and admire them.

English classes are usually the loudest in Plaza because while we are learning together, and yes I am learning as well, our classes are a blast. We are usually laughing, and telling stories to each other. Jokes are told while food is being passed around. This has made us more than just an English class. No, this experience has brought us together in such a way that can only be described as a family.

I consider my first day of school to be scarier than any horror movie ever made. My heart still tries to beat out of my chest when I remember that day. The fear of not knowing something can be crippling, but the power of learning is freedom.

A few book recommendations: These books helped me learn English and almost every student has been required to read these books in school.

America Writes: Learning English Through American Short Stories, edited by Judith Kay and Rosemary Gelshenen

Charlotte's Webby E.B. White

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Do you have a story about learning English or another new language? Share it with us below or join the conversation at any of our neighborhood Plaza programs!

Plazas are a dedicated space for migrants from all over the world to connect with people, information, and resources, building Denver’s successful global community. This program engages newcomers of all ages and backgrounds with free opportunities and specialized support as they gain second-language conversation skills, prepare for citizenship, create new networks in business, and exchange perspectives across the immigrant experience.

To find a Plaza program near you, please see our events calendar.