While Brooklyn Public Library’s English Conversation Groups provide a wonderful opportunity for English language learners to increase their listening and speaking skills, they have also become essential for another reason as well. Many English language learners often mention that it can be difficult to use the new language skills they have acquired because they lack the confidence. They might have the ability to speak and listen but have a fear of making a mistake. This is where attending the English Conversation Groups can help them. Many of the participants surveyed stated that along with improving their listening and speaking skills, they also feel their confidence level has increased. Those who were previously apprehensive to speak in public may be willing to take a chance which is almost as important as the language skills themselves.
In 2010, the New York State Library’s Adult Literacy Library Services Grant Program awarded Brooklyn Public Library a grant to help fund the program. At that time, there were 12 groups. Since then, the program has received additional grants which have continued up until July of this year. Currently there are 44 groups at numerous branches. They meet once a week for a period of 2 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.
Over the past few years, it has been exciting to see the continued success of the program. People who join the groups, at times, become like a small family. They share their opinions, their successes, their frustrations, and their excitement. Some participants become friends and do activities with each other outside the groups and happily tell the others what they did at the next group session. Moving to a new country and trying to navigate New York City can be overwhelming for many people. It is wonderful to see that the groups not only provide a place for people to receive necessary language skills for living in the United States but also a place for them to share their experiences and to learn from others. While some may measure the success by the numbers, others may say the true success lies within the individual who now feels part of a community.
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.