Op-ed: Adult English language programs are flourishing – and need volunteers
Adult English language learners represent the fastest growing segment of the adult education population in Connecticut. This population is generally from the lowest income families in the highest needs districts, such as Hartford and New Haven.
Fortunately, there are several programs in place to provide language assistance to the adult foreign-born population. Learners interested in improving their English proficiency can register for classes at no cost at a variety of places. Among them are community-based centers, literacy centers, libraries and the adult education English as a Second Language (ESL) programs at some local high schools.
As a graduate student completing my degree in TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) at CCSU and having to learn English as a second language myself, I decided to visit a few of these adult ESL programs, in Hartford, Manchester and New Britain. I discovered that the structure of each program differs in each facility. For instance, at one center some learners were taught in a classroom setting with their peers, while other centers only offer individualized instruction. The main goal of these centers, however, is to provide for the needs of these adult English language learners so that they can read, write and speak in English to a functional level. Common among all centers is a need to raise awareness about these programs and to recruit enthusiastic volunteer tutors.
Adult ESL programs serve an important role in the community. First, the adult ESL population trends and projections for the next 10 years will continue to grow, increasing the need to expand the current programs. Second, community-based centers rely significantly on the assistance of volunteer tutors who can help these learners gain the language fluency they need to take a more active role as citizens in the country they live in.
Have you ever thought about volunteering as a tutor in your community, but worried that you lack experience, or confidence or whatever it takes?
Many of the ESL programs are eager to train prospective tutors who are willing to volunteer once or twice a week to tutor adults who want to learn English. Adult ESL learners often face numerous challenges such as limited time, too many jobs, child care and transportation issues. In spite of these challenges, these adult learners seek to participate in adult ESL education programs and would be very grateful to have an English language tutor. If you choose to volunteer, it is likely that you will find students in adult ESL programs to be self-directed, highly motivated people who want to have a command of English to get a better job, earn a vocational trade, be able to read to their children in English or seek higher education in a community college or university.
If you are interested in volunteering to help an adult learn English, contact your local library, search online, or visit the adult ESL program nearest you.
Manchester resident Tatiana Abreu is an administrative assistant at the CT Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, and a TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) graduate student at Central Connecticut State University.
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