Contributed by Carol Desch
The English Conversation Group Program at Brooklyn Public Library has continued to grow over the past year allowing more participants to take part in this free program. When the program received a grant from the New York State Library’s Adult Literacy Library Services Grant Program in 2010, there were twelve groups. Since then, the program has received an additional grant for 2011-2012 and the number of groups has now increased to 34. This has been especially helpful for areas in Brooklyn that have a large ESL community but may not have access to free ESL classes.
The English Conversation Groups meet once a week for a period of two hours and are led by a trained volunteer. They are open to adults of all speaking and listening levels and do not require registration so this allows participants to attend that may not be able to commit to an attendance based class. Currently they are located at 23 Brooklyn Public Library branches. Because of the success at some of these locations, additional groups have been added in order to keep the size of the groups at an average of 5-6 participants per group. This is extremely helpful in order to allow group members ample amount of time to practice their speaking skills.
While attending a group, participants may discuss a variety of topics some of which include navigating the public transportation system, the banking and post office system, finding a job, current events, holidays, and adjusting to a new country. The topics and materials not only provide an opportunity to have people speak but it helps them overcome other obstacles that many ESL learners are faced with including lack of self-confidence. The groups provide a comfortable place for people to relate with one another who are in a similar position and they can share their experiences with each other. Even though there is not an attendance policy, many of the group members come back each week and become familiar with one another. The groups become a place where people not only increase their language skills but their confidence as well, allowing them to feel more comfortable using their newly acquired skills out in the world beyond their group session.
For more information about Brooklyn Public Library’s English Conversation Groups please contact Volunteer Resources at 718-230-2406 or go to www.brooklynpubliclibrary.org