These days, there seems to be plenty of time on everyone’s hands due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic here in Gwinnett County and all over the world.
If you want to spend that spare time learning a second language, whether for work, school or conversational purposes, you might want to consider something offered at the Gwinnett County Public Library (GCPL)…and it’s free!
You might not know it, but the GCPL System gives residents the opportunity to learn a language other than their native one.
Regular classes teaching English-speaking residents to learn Spanish (and vice-versa) during a 10-week session are available. And, because of the pandemic, participants can take part virtually from the comfort of their homes.
“The English in Your Language program was added just under four years ago to help participants learn English with assistance in their native language,” according to Vicky Perez, manager of the Lilburn Branch and coordinator of the second language program. Spanish, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese currently are offered by the library.
All interested parties have to do is register on the system’s website, www.gwinnettpl.org, and a facilitator will be in touch to confirm their spot in the program.
“The program really took off last year during the pandemic,” said Perez. “We offered our sessions virtually starting in the summer and have experienced 150 percent growth between our summer and fall offerings.” She said their winter session began the week of January 12 and are seeing promising numbers in the first few weeks.
The library holds two primary events during the year that non-English speaking customers can attend to either practice their English conversational skills or to learn basic English from a staff member who speaks their native language.
A relaxed conversational atmosphere for English learners to practice their new skills is called ‘Let’s Talk,” another free service by the library. Participants can talk with people from different countries who also are trying to improve their conversational English. This program is open to the community and all conversations are conducted in English.
“This is our original language program that we began offering around a decade ago,” Perez said. “In this program, library staff lead customers with intermediate to advanced English proficiency in practicing their English skills, and learning vocabulary.” The 10-week program also is offered virtually, and registration is made online.
Basic English skills can be learned from a staff member who speaks a participant’s native language, as instruction is offered for speakers of Spanish, Vietnamese, Mandarin/Cantonese, Japanese and Korean.
In the World Language Programs, such as Hello! Hola! and Hello! Xin Chao, English speakers can learn a world language with the assistance of library staff. Spanish and Vietnamese are offered virtually at present with plans to offer more languages in the future.
If needed, a participant may start as a beginner in the programs, Perez said.
The Library System has let the public know about the courses through brochures, media, and “word of mouth, especially,” she said.
“We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the community for our language programs, and often our programs will grow through word of mouth,” she said. “Registration for our sessions fills up rather quickly as a result.”
Due to the ongoing pandemic, the system has had to pivot previous in-person sessions to a virtual format.
“However, we still prioritize our customers' needs and make our sessions adaptable to those with varying comfort levels of technology,” Perez said. “We believe in meeting our participants where they are.”
She said participants, in some cases, have used the completion certificates that are offered at the end of the course to demonstrate that they’re working on their English skills for professional development.
For more information, interested persons can register for the programs on the library website: www.gwinnettpl.org.