Literacy Volunteers East Bay is planning to provide an ESL (English as a Second Language) course starting early January.
Melanie Decker, Director of the Senior Center, made clear that there is growing demand for this kind of service because the non-native speaking part of the population is increasing, and lack of transportation options make ESL lessons in really needed.
Literacy Volunteers East Bay ‘s membership grows every day, says Decker, and over the last two years, we’ve seen an enormous increase in the number of people who have only limited or no command of English, and as they don’t have adequate (if any) transportation options to attend an ESL class, our community’s seniors may feel even more alone and isolated.
LV East Bay is already offering transportation services for all of its members, so participants of the ESL class (spearheaded by social worker Ann Albano) could avail themselves of this. at. The ESL class also comes with instruction in conversational skills, as they form the basis of any language course.
Ann Albano says her goals for ESL instruction are the improvement of the partaking adults’ everyday communication skills, and the enhancement of their social interactions both in the community and in the senior center.
If our senior members improve their English speaking skills, they will gain more independence and dignity. She continues that seniors are having different communication needs, as they want to talk about health needs on a very practical level, so being able to do so in English with other community members and at the senior center is crucial to them.
It won’t be long before several East Bay seniors will be able to get help with gaining more independence by learning English. The first group that will enjoy the ESL classes is just very small.
Albano has been contacting several ESL programs across the region and has monitored how many adults in the center and the community would be interested in ESL classes. She says she now has a nice group with many different people, for example from across South Asia.
There is a man who only speaks Farsi, and a woman who is speaking Spanish and Portuguese. There are actually many Spanish speakers. The first class includes also people from East Asia, from Korea, and a woman from Vietnam, and a man from Taiwan, China.
The group is very diverse, and Albano says that when she’s traveling around, her eyes are focused on the older population when she drives along, and she feels that if the center had only something more to draw them in, she would even have more people that would be taken ESL lessons.
Just like in other parts of the U.S., the level of English that’s spoken by a lot of older immigrants in the East Bay area and in the Senior Center is varying widely. Even though a lot of them have been living in America for decades, their mastery of English is very limited because many don’t speak it at all at home.
Other new or recent arrivals can have a better understanding, but often this is still not sufficient to communicate their needs effectively, and many community members also lack people around them that could act as mediators.
But here, at the Senior Center, we obviously deal with adults. There are times that you would like to engage some family members, but bear in mind that most adults need or want to be addressed directly.
Albano wants to get more information from the community’s seniors and what they want to get out of it, before she will discuss her ideas further with local and regional ESL providers. She hopes to be able to definitely have formed a class by the end summer is over, and keep in mind, her lessons are free!