Saturday, April 12, 2008

Help immigrants Learn English

Help our immigrants learn English

"This country -USA- was built by immigrants, it will continue to attract and need immigrants. Some people think there are enough people here now and we don't need more. There have been people saying that since the 1700s and it is still not true. We need immigrants here and we need them to be successful in order to make this country safe and strong and a world leader. We also must help them to become Americans and not just people who live here and think of themselves as visitors"

Are you proud to be an American? Do you consider yourself a talker or a good listener? Do you enjoy telling stories, reading them or even listening to them?

If so, why not reach out to those who are new to our community and to the English language by becoming an ESL (English as a Second Language) tutor?
An ESL learner is a person whose first language is not English. An ESL tutor is one who helps the ESL learner study English to improve his or her communication skills and be better able to function in our society.

If you've ever traveled to a country that does not speak English, you realize how difficult it can be to communicate beyond basic conversation. Can you imagine trying to speak to a mechanic in France about getting your car fixed? Or what if you were in Japan with your child gravely ill, but you couldn't understand the doctor's instructions? Or what if you simply wanted to understand all the memos that came home from school?

Consider your last name -- what is your heritage? Are you a Native American, or did your ancestors arrive in the United States from some other land? How did they assimilate into American culture? Who taught them English? What struggles did your ancestors overcome or what sacrifices did they make in their quest to make a better life for themselves and their families in America?

There are many organizations in the Greensboro area -- including the Glenwood Public Library, Reading Connections, FaithAction and many churches -- that maintain long waiting lists of learners who are seeking English tutors. There are more individuals seeking tutors than there are available tutors. Many ESL learners work long days, hold down several jobs and take care of families, yet they still attempt to learn English either through community college classes or by signing up for a tutor.

These lists, quietly lying on the desks at these organizations, clearly demonstrate that our nonEnglish-speaking neighbors are decidedly making attempts to better communicate in English.

And no, I'm not affiliated with any of these organizations, but most of these organizations offer ESL tutor training with the only real requirements being a sincere desire to make a difference and to be fluent in English. Just an hour or two of your time once a week can make a tremendous difference in an English learner's life.

As you're making your New Year's resolutions, think about becoming an ESL tutor. Whatever your opinion on immigration, the compassionate thing to do is to welcome our neighbors and share the very essence of what we call our own -- English.

Jill Wagner has served as an ESL tutor and instructor. She will teach an ESL class at GTCC this year.




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