“Why Learn English?” What Learners are Saying

“Why do refugees and immigrants want to study English?” “What English do they want to learn?” “How can LSS Center for New Americans help them achieve their goals?

Seeking answers to questions like these was the reason Education Program Coordinator, Laura Smith-Hill, organized a Student Forum on October 13th, 2014. She said “The motivation behind the forum was the need to survey students and get their input about our adult education programming. We had previously gathered input through the LSS Client Satisfaction Surveys, but I was looking for a way to get more input in a way that was culturally appropriate and more accessible for our students.”

Approximately three hundred students gathered throughout the day and with the help of interpreters from Community Interpreter Services they were able to share their thoughts on such questions as “Why do you want to learn more English? What is difficult for you? What do you want to learn more about? What can we do to help you more?”

Laura shared that the main goal of many of the learners is “to be able to function independently in our community…to be completely self-sufficient. Our students want to be able to communicate with anyone and everyone in our community.”

Some student quotes include a desire to learn more English because “I want to speak and be understood” and “I want to talk to a doctor.” Many want to be able to talk with their children’s teachers and “help my children with school.” Another student said “If you have more English, you have a better life.”  

As the Coordinator for the Education Program at LSS and an Instructor, Laura was very pleased with the results of the forum. In addition to receiving concrete suggestions for improvement, the student forum also provided important feedback on what is going well. When asked “Do you like the classes and teachers at LSS?” learners’ responses included:

I learn a lot of English. I’m improving.

Teachers help us understand and not be afraid to talk.

Teachers speak slow and help when we don’t understand.

The teachers have good methods, respect, and commit themselves.

“These are important program pillars we need to maintain and keep building on” Laura said. When asked if she would like to do another forum in the future, Laura was very positive. “I would love to. If the learners want it, we want to provide it.”



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