Nighttime ESL classes being offered for free

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published August 14, 2014

 Waterford residents Max Liu and Ford Yin, both from Taiwan, practice speaking English by asking eachother questions.

Waterford residents Max Liu and Ford Yin, both from Taiwan, practice speaking English by asking eachother questions.

Photo by Donna Agusti

WEST BLOOMFIELD — Registration is open for free evening English as a second language classes for adults, which is offered through West Bloomfield Adult Education.

Classes start Sept. 2 and run through December, and second semester is January through May. Evening classes are 6:30-9 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The West Bloomfield Adult Education ESL class is one of the larger classes in Oakland County, and they work with other community programs to help “newcomers adjust and adapt to life here in the U.S.,” according to Dawn Hanford, adult education office coordinator. The program’s clientele represents over 43 nations.

As opposed to a bilingual program where a translator is standing by, the classes are part of an immersion program where students are forced to learn English.

“All of our teachers are English-speaking teachers,” Hanford said. “It’s not practical to use the other languages in the classroom.” The program supplies books, so students need only bring a notebook and pencil, she added.

Classes focus on the four core areas of communication — reading, writing, listening and speaking — and there are three levels of classes — beginning, intermediate and advanced. Students are tested to see which level they will be placed in, and from there — using the four core areas — teachers work with students so they become proficient in English. The ultimate goal, Hanford said, is to help students get to work or higher education.

“(Students) want to learn English, and they want to learn even more. I can’t seem to teach them enough,” said Nora Feinberg, ESL teacher. “They want more, more, more. And some of them are upset that they have to go back home to their country.”

Students learn basic grammar, current events and local customs. In the intermediate class, students focus on writing and grammar, while in the advanced session, the focus is conversation.

“(We) want them to expand their vocabulary so they can communicate their wants and needs a little better,” Hanford said.

Teachers also take students on field trips. For instance, students may be taken to a restaurant to learn how to order food, or a teacher may make a purchase at a store and have the student return it. In the past, they have taken students to Meadow Brook Hall and to Detroit to see the Rockettes, Hanford said.

“We try to give the students a good taste of what our lives have to offer here,” Hanford said, adding that the cultural experience is just as important as learning English. 

Feinberg said that, from her experiences with the students, they have told her “Americans are so nice and outgoing, and they like that part of America.”

Because West Bloomfield is a cosmopolitan area that consists of many different nationalities, Hanford said the educators are trying to promote harmony that allows people to “live and grow peacefully.”

Adult Education has a combination of free ESL classes in the evenings, classes for cost during the day and a parent class at Roosevelt Elementary. Daytime classes are tuition-based and run 2 1/2 hours, two days per week for six weeks. Tuition costs $215. The Roosevelt Elementary parent class focuses on helping parents better communicate with teachers, Handford said.

Classes in the daytime are generally smaller, allowing teachers to have more one-on-one interaction. Nighttime classes typically have anywhere from 60-70 students for the entire registration period.

The program is funded through the state, Hanford explained. The state allocates about $22 million for adult education programs, she said, and about $8 million-$10 million is disbursed to Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties altogether. While the funding would normally come through the state, the Legislature determined the money would be divided and funneled through local agencies, she said. Funds for the Oakland County programs are funneled through the Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency.

West Bloomfield Adult Education’s budget total is about $350,000, which includes tuition, and state and federal funds, Hanford added.

To register for classes, call (248) 539-2390 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.