ESL Classes and Assumption Sisters

Thursday, April 7, 2016


Assumption Sisters teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) classes to adult learners....we're doing it in Chaparral (NM), Worcester (MA) and Philadelphia (PA)!  

Earlier this month the Southwest Globe Times newspaper featured the ESL classes at the Paschalville Library where our Sisters Gertrude and Anne Joseph teach.  Here is what they had to say:

English as a Second Language classes at Paschalville Library
Intensive courses at times convenient to adult learners

An increasing number of local women and men are gathering in behind the desks at the Paschalville Branch of the Philadelphia Free Library several times a week to nurture their English language skills. Under the caring eyes of instructor Sister Gertrude, or “Sister G” as she is affectionatly known, learners troop to the white board and copy out a statement about their lives. Then each one bravely goes back while the class, and with Sister G as backup, respectfully makes suggestions about how the text could be improved. When there is consensus, the change is made right then and there: a change in tense or person here, the right pronoun form, there, and always attention to the proper punctuation.

When Sister G hears incorrect pronunciation, she corrects that, too on the spot, having the student repeat and repeat until it’s just right. “How does that sound?” She asks the class and gets an OK from everyone. “Collectively, they almost always come up with the right answer, so it’s a group experience that helps everyone,” added Sister G. “And the most powerful thing is how much they want to learn!”

This time-tested approach not only develops the learners' writing skills but gives them a chance to hone their English speaking skills – on their feet in front of others. It also strongly reinforces their self confidence.

Sister Gertrude originates from the Visayas area of the Philippines and grew up bilingual with fluency in both English and her native Tagalog. She is a member of the Sisters of the Assumption who for the last century and a half have been committed to the improvement of society by prayer and education. With her careful and sympathetic nurture of her students, Sister G certainly exemplifies her order.

Said one student, “Sister G both challenges and inspires me so that I really want to learn English.” She has the experience of a multilingual environment, having learned French in adddition to several African dialects spoken in her native Benin.

Another student affirmed, “This is a very, very good way to learn. And, I pass on some of what I learn here to my family – and they are very impressed."

There is a fee for participating in the class, but it is adjusted according to the ability of the learner to pay. The fees, in turn, are used to purchase study materials and workbooks.

The English as a Second Language and other English Conversation courses are sponsored by the Friends of the Paschalville Library.   Over the last year, the dedicated Friends have spearheaded the creation of a creative learning center for teens, and volunteer time in support of a number of other library activities.

Classes take place two or three days a week at the library located at the corner of Woodland Avenue and 70th Street. For more information, phone 215-386-5016.