If you've never been to the Northeast of Philadelphia, or specifically, have never visited the Northeast Regional Library, you might not know how many languages the patrons of the library speak. The other week I introduced myself to two classes of immigrants. One was a class focused on gaining citizenship in the United States, the other as a 40 person strong English language class. The Northeast of Philly has become an incredibly diverse section of the city, with multitudes of immigrant communities from all over the world. I have already met people from Sudan, Bangladesh, Southern China, and Japan. Part of the goal of the People's Media Collection is to focus some of our video production efforts on gathering the stories of immigrants who use Northeast Regional as a place to learn English and to access other vital resources to living and working in Philadelphia.
Many of the students were excited to hear about the possibility of a new way to practice and improve their English through the video production instruction the People's Media Collection focuses on. Sure enough, I got to spend a couple of hours working with three women working to learn and improve their English. I took on the role of interviewer, while one woman would handle the tablet for filming and another would answer my questions. I asked them how long they had been in the United States, what they missed about their home country, and what they liked or disliked about living in Philadelphia. They each had unique answers and short stories to tell in the English they have mastered thus far.
One of the best ways for a non-native speaker of any language to improve their vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation is to immerse themselves in the language they want to learn. I hope that spending time with these women, and more patrons learning English in the future, will increase their confidence in their English skills, and make a measurable difference in their proficiency.