By: John-John F.-H.

johnJohn.jpgSome people would think that because Daniela Harrell immigrated as a child, the change was easier than if she were an adult. Their reasoning, that because she was young, she would be able to adapt to her new environment better than an adult, is not necessarily true. From language to customs to environments, Mrs. Harrell’s immigration from Italy to Canada was difficult for her to adjust to and extremely hard on her.
Mrs. Harrell was only 12 when she immigrated to Canada for her father’s job as a minister. Coming from Italy, her native language was Italian. The language barrier between her Italian and the Canadians’ French and English was both a blessing and a curse. Her lack of English knowledge shielded her from the offensive names some of her classmates called her, but at the same time stimulated more names and insults. She would have her Italian-English dictionary out at tests, and the children would call her a cheater. In Italy, people are much more personable than in Canada and the United States. They stand closer and use more emotion and hand gestures when they speak. She continued to stand and speak in relation to other people as she did in Italy, which discomforted her fellow classmates and their idea of personal space. As many children do, when they were discomforted by her, they began to call her names, now targeting her home country and how close she stood to people.
Over time, however, she picked up some English words and phrases from her dictionary and some from her mother, and was able to make friends.

When Mrs. Harrell lived in Italy, she went shopping every day to get fresh produce from small, local shops. Her family had no car, but instead walked everywhere, and they knew all of the shop owners, and all of the shop owners knew her. Almost 20 years after she left Italy, she returned and visited one of those shops, and the owner recognized her. In Canada, there were shopping malls, which Italy lacked; there were cars and buses to get to places, and shopping occurred much less regularly. The thought of making a change like that is saddening.
Mrs. Harrell immigrated a second time, now from Canada to the United States, when she was 17; the similarities in the Canadian and United States life was similar enough that she adapted more easily. Her experience of misunderstanding between her and her classmates because of differences in their countries of origin, languages, and customs led her to become an English as a Second Language teacher in hopes that she could help a child adjust more easily to their new culture.