Want to learn English for free? Here are the resources you’ll need


Not speaking English is a figurative wall that obstructs millions of immigrants in California from taking full advantage of the opportunities in their new home.

Although there are plenty of places where other languages are spoken and understood, there are just as many, if not more, where they aren’t. Learning English is a step that many immigrants take to better navigate American culture.

Alisa Takeuchi, who teaches English as a second language at Garden Grove Adult School, said her students often “feel it is their time to learn English themselves after years of raising their children in the U.S. and watching them succeed and thrive. They no longer want to be dependent on their family or friends to help navigate through a grocery store, a restaurant or to travel.”

Although some immigrants try to learn the language by listening to the radio or watching TV in English, others want a more structured approach. You can easily find classes, software programs and apps that can help you learn English for a fee; examples include Rosetta Stone and Babbel. (There are ad-supported apps too, such as HelloTalk and Duolingo.) But these lessons can be costly, and learning English can be a more emotionally demanding experience than you might think. Here are some tips on how to overcome both of these hurdles.

USA Learns, a website funded by the Sacramento County Office of Education, has been offering free English learning courses since 2008. It focuses on core skills such as vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, writing and comprehension of both the spoken and the written word.

The site aims to teach beginner and intermediate-level English to adults. With text that is entirely in English, it uses multimedia such as images, audio files, videos and animation to help convey its lessons.

“Our site assumes people know [roughly] 50 to 100 words in English,” said Andrea Willis, the program’s retired director. “It’s a little tricky if you show up and you know zero English.”

A new course called USA Learns Citizenship is “all about helping people prepare for their naturalization interview,” Willis said. “To become a U.S. citizen … you need to be able to read English, write English, speak English and know a bunch of stuff in order to pass it and have decent interview skills, have small talk skills, which is something people don’t know.”

Another course called Access America teaches integration skills, including “how to search for a job, how to do a job interview, how to access community services, get a driver’s license, how to deal with the health care system, how do U.S. schools work, [and how to] navigate websites,” Willis said, adding, “There are a lot of digital literacy skills in many of our courses also.”

To enroll in a class, go to usalearns.org and click the red “start now” button. You’ll need to fill out a simple registration form that asks for your name and email address. The site does not collect addresses or any other personally identifying information.

Then you just pick a course and start learning.

A second source of affordable English instruction is the English Language Learners in-Home Program, a nonprofit based in Carson City, Nev. The program offers free sessions with a volunteer tutor — either one on one or in two- to five-person groups — via Zoom, FaceTime or Google Classroom.

The sessions, which are offered to people at all levels of English learning, require a minimum of two hours a week. (The site’s volunteer tutors also teach computer literacy, GED test preparation and citizenship.) To apply, you’ll need to fill out a form on the program’s website, supplying your name, address and other personal information.

Florence Phillips, the founder and executive director of the program, said the instruction may also be offered in person — some tutors “want to still do face-to-face,” she said. She estimated that the program has tutored about 8,000 immigrant and refugee families, helping 350 to 400 learners a year on average in 40 states. More than 90% of the students have been native Spanish speakers.

If you are struggling to cover the cost of the citizenship exam, the English Language Learners in-Home Program can assist you. According to its website, “Students who have saved money for the citizenship exam but do not have the full amount ($725) can apply for assistance by contacting us at 775-888-2021 or by email at englishinhomeprogram@gmail.com.”

A third option for English lessons is the Los Angeles Public Library, which offers resources, services, workshops and classes on English grammar, idioms, vocabulary, phonics and punctuation for adults. There are classes aimed at both non-native English learners and native English speakers.

Tutoring is free at every library branch. Call (213) 228-7037 to make an appointment or fill out the form on the library’s website. You can also find a library location at LAPL.org, the library’s website. Access the library’s list of English-learning resources on its website as well.

One-on-one tutoring begins by evaluating your skills and finding the tutor best suited for you. You meet with your tutor twice a week for 90 minutes. They provide free learning materials to help you learn to read and write.

Adult literacy classes help students practice reading, writing and speaking. This includes book clubs, English conversation classes and grammar and pronunciation classes. Classes meet in the library once a week for 90 minutes.

Walk-in tutors offer immediate help. They can assist with job applications, computer questions and more in individual sessions that last 15 to 20 minutes.

The “Families Read Together” class teaches parents and caregivers of kids ages 17 and under how to read to children. Each time a student learns how to read a book, they get a brand new copy of the book to keep.

The library’s online class “Leamos (Let’s Read)” teaches Spanish-speaking adults how to read and write in Spanish, which they say makes the process of learning English easier.

The “Cell-ed” program enables students to learn English on their cellphones using text messages. Instruction is available in English, Spanish, Chinese and Korean. Citizenship and job skills courses are also available. Start by calling (213) 223-7730 and use PIN No. 5275.

The library also provides free access to an online language-learning database called Mango Languages, which ordinarily costs $8 per month or $80 per year. Mango has English learning courses for speakers of 19 different languages, including Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic and Russian. Learners can download the Mango Mobile app on their iOS- or Android-powered smartphones and tablets.

Learning English does not require you to abandon your culture

Vanessa Katz, founder of LA Psychotherapy Group, said immigrants come under conflicting pressures: an external pressure to assimilate and fit in with their new community and an internal pressure not to abandon their roots.

Assimilation — fully adopting the culture of your new country — is not the only option for immigrants, she said. Another is acculturation, which Katz defined as “a process where you keep part of your culture” as you take in a new one.

She warned that when you don’t differentiate between the two, you feel like the only way to be accepted is if you assimilate. However, that would mean letting go of parts of who you are, which could result in a loss of sense of identity, she said.

“When someone is unable to adapt to the new culture, but also feels far away from their known culture, they can end up in an either isolated or what’s called marginalized state. That can then bring symptoms of anxiety or depression,” Katz said. “Part of fitting into a culture is knowing the language, so if you don’t know the language and you don’t know the culture, the stress increases, the anxiety increases and mental health issues can show up.”

A study published in Indiana University’s Advances of Social Work Journal found that “bilingual individuals report significantly higher levels of life satisfaction and resilience than their Spanish-speaking counterparts do. Speaking primarily English only predicted higher levels of resilience but not life satisfaction.”

Acculturating to the English-speaking world does not make you any less you, Katz said, adding that realizing what you bring from your own culture makes you “special and unique and different.”

To people who want tips on how to integrate, Katz said, “I would say to try to take risks and to know that you are probably a worse judge or critic of yourself than others would be. There are groups that embrace wanting to learn about different cultures. A way to try to learn English would be to share your culture with English-speaking people.”

To Katz, finding a community of people who make you feel at home and safe is of utmost importance. “There’s a lot of reading and books and literature through which you can always feel connected,” said Katz. Forms of art such as music or poetry that remind you of your culture or even joining a faith-based organization that you align with can help, she added.

“I understand that it’s really difficult to let go of what’s known because it feels as if you’re grieving, you’re gonna have to grieve something,” Katz said. “It feels like a loss. Learning a new language does not mean that you have to give up who you are or what you know. It just means that you’re going to make yourself broader.”

Affordable or free therapy for immigrants

The L.A. Psychotherapy Group, whose therapists are all Spanish speakers, charges fees on a sliding scale based on an individual’s ability to pay.

Katz emphasized that when you go to therapy, you do not have to divulge your immigration status. Everything you say to a therapist is confidential, except in extraordinary circumstances (none of which involves your immigration status). For example, if you plan to hurt yourself or others, Katz said, your therapist can break confidentiality.

Other options for affordable therapy for immigrants are low-fee counseling centers such as the Southern California Counseling Center, which charges only a $20 intake session fee.

Also, Canoga Park-based El Centro De Amistad provides free mental health support to individuals up to age 64 who are in the country without authorization. To qualify, you must be signed up for Medi-Cal, although the agency does accept donations to cover the cost of mental health support for uninsured immigrants.

The nonprofit offers family therapy, case management, medication support and parenting classes in Spanish and English. For the intake department at El Centro de Amistad’s San Fernando office, call (818) 898-0223. For the Canoga Park location, call (818) 347-8565.

The National Alliance of Mental Illness offers links to free or low-cost hotlines, support groups and other resources, including outpatient treatment, inpatient treatment, individual therapy and psychiatrists, legal aid and counseling centers. The group’s site also provides links to resources available in Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, Khmer and Vietnamese.


Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *