Great Neck has experienced an enormous demographic change in the last ten years. This generally homogeneous suburb has become a very diverse community. The town has welcomed new immigrants from China, Korea, Israel, Iran, and other countries.
The newcomers are not stereotypical immigrants. They are well educated and financially stable. Many own their own homes and work in New York City. They selected Great Neck because of its excellent school system, its proximity and easy commute to Manhattan and its lovely parks and recreational activities.
No matter the country of origin, many have difficulty speaking English. Although they may have had instruction in their home country, many of these classes were not taught by Americans or other native English speakers. The curriculum stressed grammar over conversation.
Great Neck has many resources for new arrivals, including a wonderful ESOL program as part of the Community Education program. In addition, many of the newcomers don’t have to speak English on a regular basis, since they can speak their own language in many shops and among friends and family.
Many studies show that failing to know English hurts an immigrant’s ability to integrate into American society and could limit their occupational opportunities. The Great Neck Library, cognizant of this research, developed a program that allows newcomers a comfortable and stress-free environment in which they can practice their English skills.
“The students come to Great Neck from all over the world. In addition to immigrants, we have had au pairs from Turkey, Italy, and Germany in class. Even though they are in the United States for a short time, they recognize that being proficient in English will allow them to travel and enjoy their stay,” says Librarian Barbara Buckley.
“Getting people to talk about things they enjoy is easy,” she adds. “As long as they feel comfortable to make mistakes and not be judged.”
Technology, including audio-visual tools, are essential to the program. English learners appreciate seeing the topics we discuss. Some like to practice their English by sharing photographs of their families and home countries. Although translation devices are not encouraged during classes, making a list of English words that are not understood helps and using translation before or after discussion is useful.
The Fall Session of the English Language Conversation Group begins on Sept. 24, and continues from Oct. 8 to Dec. 17 from 12:30 to 2:00 p.m. at the Station Branch of the Great Neck Library, 26 Great Neck Road (2nd level) Gardens at Great Neck Plaza, above Best Market.
Registration not required but strongly suggested by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For further information, call the Reference Dept. at (516) 466-8055, ext. 302.
Flyers in English, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Arabic, Farsi, and Hebrew are available at all of the Great Neck Library locations.