ESL: English as Second Language


Dialogue between the various communities is what binds them together. This is more relevant today, particularly after the events of September 11, 2001. Thus it is important that the immigrants living in New York City talk and understand each other. English is the only language the communities living in America have in common because it is used by everyone be it school teachers, the police and fire departments, and city offices. So if an immigrant is unable to speak English, he or she would be cut off from the outside world, unable to shop, go to the bank or even order delivery food.

Most of the immigrants who have had prior educational background and are comfortable with their native language of Punjabi / Urdu/ Hindi/ Spanish/ Russian are unable to participate in events such as parent-teacher meetings at schools, supermarket shopping, helping their children with homework or seeking appointments with a doctor. Some are frustrated that their children come home and ask them why they cannot speak English. This is happening to all immigrant men and women who have lived in New York.

According to the latest census (2002) statistics, one out of every 10 New Yorkers is Asian. Seven out of every 100 New Yorkers use Asian languages at home. And, most noticeably, four out of seven New Yorkers using Asian languages at home consider their English less than fluent. In Brooklyn, 38 percent of the population is foreign-born. It is in this context that COPO realized that the first and foremost task was to educate the immigrant population in ESL and started its ESL classes for all who wish to learn the language.

The setting and makeup of our classes has been developed with cultural appropriate needs in mind. The teachers have been carefully selected from among the volunteers from within the community and experts in the teaching profession. The classes are FREE and are held on a weekly basis. The course is of fifteen weeks duration. The enrolled students are first assessed for their English language abilities, and then divided into groups where each learns at his/her own level