New York Governor Announces ESL Program for NY Spanish-Speakers

cell phone learningOnly 51 percent of New Yorkers speak only English at home. Spanish speakers make up most of the non-English population, about 25 percent of the city. Since approximately 1.87 million residents are speaking Spanish in New York, the governor has noticed that not everyone has the resources and time to commit to learning English. Learning English could significantly improve the lives of many New York immigrants, and the city wants to give back to a community that has given so much to them economically.

Governor Andrew Cuomo made New York the first state to offer English lessons via smartphones as part of a pilot program run by the social venture Cell-ED, according to an April 28 Latin Times article.

The first phase of the program will focus Spanish speakers in selected New York counties and will cost the state $14,000. Participants will have access to this free service, only paying for the cost of minutes and text messages on their phones.

This program will help those who want to learn English but do not have the time to take traditional courses. Cuomo’s administration hope that the English lessons will help these immigrants improve their language skills in a more flexible way, in turn improving their lives in the United States.

“Anyone who wants to learn English should have the opportunity to do so,” Cuomo said in the article. “By dramatically increasing the chances for people to learn and practice English, we are making it easier for them to improve their economic livelihood and build a better life. I am proud that New York is launching this first-of-its-kind program and leading the way in expanding opportunity for all people.”

The program will be overseen by the New York State Office for New Americans (ONA) in a partnership with Cell-ED to provide customized mobile English-language training. The training will combine voice tutorials, text messaging services, and two-way communication with tutors.

“While other language programs require the use of WiFi or the added cost of a cell phone data package over a ‘smart’ phone, Cell-Ed is conducted over a regular cell phone without internet service,” said the New York Department of State in the article. “This bridges the ‘digital divide’ many newcomers face using technology they already own.”

Participants will call a Cell-ED number from their cell phones, listen to a lesson, review the lesson and text responses with instant feedback. After receiving support and corrections, the participants will move on to the next lesson. These lessons will be available during any time of the day.

The program is expected to extend beyond the initial participating areas–New York City, the Hudson Valley, North Country, and the Finger Lakes–and beyond the English language to include Mandarin, French, and others in the future.

New York is excited to serve a community that has been a vital contributor their state’s economy. According to the state website, 4.2 million immigrants live in New York State, and one in four New Yorkers of working age are foreign born. These immigrants are responsible for $229 billion in annual economic output annually.

New York community based organizations that are partnering with the state to enroll immigrants in the program include New York Farm Bureau, Literacy Volunteers of Wyoming County, Agri-Business Child Development, Cornell Cooperative Extension, New York Immigration Coalition, the Hispanic Federation and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York.

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