Residents are standing in line for many hours at the Bronx Library Center in order to take the center’s popular English as a second language courses designed for adults. About 3 million adults speak a language other than English in New York City. The service is free and open to all. The library does not ask any questions about a person’s immigration status. The program is most popular in Bronx, but is available at 32 of 88 locations of the New York Public Library. Over 4, 398 took advantage of this free service in 2013.
Residents have different reasons for wanting to take the classes. Some register for the classes in hopes of securing a better job. They have found that the first question that many employers ask is if they can speak English.
Others take the course so that they can excel in careers that they already have. Some are very ambitious like the man who made a small fortune selling tortillas, but knows that he can expand his career when he learns to speak English.
Still others come because they want to help their children succeed in school. Often these parents want to be able to communicate better with school officials and be more active in their child’s activities. Some of these parents even bring their children along because they think the children will benefit from seeing how hard the parent is working to learn.
Still others are recent immigrants who want to succeed in America. These residents have often spent their life savings to get to America. Now, they want to be successful. Many will send back for additional family members once they become successful who may also take the class.
The majority of these residents take the classes after being told of them by friends who have already taken them. Many ride numerous buses and trains to arrive at a location that has space available. One of the reasons that the library’s classes are so popular is that they are free. Many people who cannot speak English cannot afford the expensive classes offered by language schools in the city.
The library would like to offer more classes each year, but say that currently the funding is not available. The New York Public Library system spends about $5 million dollars each year on the classes along with the library’s literacy classes. Most locations also offer citizenship classes and technology training. About 66 percent of that money comes from private donations. In some cases, the state is starting to help defray some of the cost. Many of the classes are taught over the Internet.