Intensive English Class A Huge Success!


ELAA Intensive students proudly display their Certificate of Accomplishment. Photo by Jennifer Stanowski

Anyone who has attempted to learn another language as an adult knows how difficult it can be. The success of a new, five-week intensive English class offered this summer at Literacy Connects shows that our adult students are up for the challenge!

Literacy Connects, like other literacy programs, typically offers English language classes two days a week to accommodate adults’ busy lives.  But research shows that it takes a person who is literate in their native language an average of 500-1000 hours of instruction to become proficient enough in a new language to accomplish most communication tasks.  Literacy Connects ELAA teacher, Nancy Kwoh, a former music teacher from Chicago currently getting her Master’s degree in language teaching, did the math.

Suspecting there were students who would jump at the chance to make faster progress, she designed and offered a four-day-a-week, two-hour-a-day class focusing on speaking fluency and pronunciation.  Her hunch proved correct.  Thirty-five people from eleven countries came to register for 24 available seats.  She had to start a waiting list.

When asked about the class, Kwoh shared, “There are a lot of class options out there, but few of them focus explicitly on increasing your intelligibility.  My goal was to help students produce clearer, more understandable speech by the end of the 5 weeks.  We worked a lot on pronunciation and how to produce the stress and intonation patterns of English.  It’s really about what it means to ‘speak musically’ by varying rhythm and pitch.”

Students felt they more than achieved this goal.  Susana, a student from Mexico stated, “Sometimes when I speak now, I find myself swaying back and forth to find the rhythm of English!  I feel so much more confident to speak – and I am also a role model for my daughters to show them what is possible if you study hard!” Antonio, another student agreed, “When I spoke with my neighbor the other day, he stopped me and said ‘Whoa – what happened?  You are speaking such good English!”  Emma, a waitlisted student who waited outside of the classroom every day for a week before a space in the class became available, stated, “It was worth it!  I feel more confident when I talk and people can understand me better now.”

Thrilled by the success of the class, Kwoh hopes to offer more intensive classes at the Literacy Connects building in the future, suggesting that the benefits go beyond English. “Having the adult students see and experience first-hand what Literacy Connects is all about is a priceless gift to our community.  I can’t wait for more!”

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