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'Practice Your English' program aims to help non-English speakers

November 13, 2018
The East Lansing Public Library on July 19, 2018.
The East Lansing Public Library on July 19, 2018. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

Knowledge of another language is a useful tool, and individuals who feel the need to improve their English skills can visit the East Lansing Public Library for a helpful resource.

Practice Your English is a class hosted from 7 to 8 p.m. every Wednesday at the East Lansing Public Library. It's free and open to all non-English speakers. 

East Lansing Public Library Children’s Assistant Emily Adams teaches the class.

“We work on grammar," Adams said. "We work on pronouncing words like Americans do so that we can speak to other Americans clearly."

The class is structured as a group discussion. It allows people of different backgrounds and from different countries to share their experiences in a second language in certain situations — for example, how someone can communicate if they get pulled over by police.

Despite a low turnout over the summer months, the class has seen an influx of 10 to 14 students during the fall semester.

“Once the students came back to school at the university, we started getting a lot more students,” Adams said. “We got a lot of new students that did not speak very much English, so we had to, in September, start over talking about simple things, but now that we're three months into it, we can have conversations.”

Word-of-mouth contributes to the increase in the number of students as well. 

“We had a couple students come to us and then go over to Friendship House, and they told their friends over at Friendship House," Adams said. "We got a lot of students from Friendship House."

Students who attend the class consistently speak more clearly and become more confident, Adams said. 

Leo Ngoune, 28, has been participating in the class for about 16 months. Ngoune is from Cameroon, Africa. When he first came to the U.S., he didn’t know any English.

“My first language is French, so I speak French,” he said. “I was looking for school, work and to learn English.”

Ngoune once had to bring his translator — his younger brother — to a job interview.

“It was really funny because the manager was talking to my brother like he needed a job,” he said. “I couldn't do anything without a translator.”

Ngoune got his first job August 2017 at a factory in West Lansing. The woman who interviewed him took time to explain his job to him.

“She gave me that chance to show her what I'm able to do without even speaking English,” Ngoune said.

Ngoune now practices all the time to improve his English. He listens to public conversations and watches English classes on YouTube. After practicing day and night, Ngoune says he's totally independent and doesn't feel the need to have a translator accompany him.

“Now I do whatever I want. I go wherever I want to go. I pick up the phone when people call me. I don't need a translator anymore,” he said. 

The ultimate goal of the class, Adams said, is for people to be able to communicate with speakers who don't share the same native language as them. 

“We will continue talking and practicing speaking and being able to communicate with American speakers,” Adams said.

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