Senior English course builds community
By Anna Tse
The Malden Senior Center bulletin board lists more than 40 different classes each month. Seniors can take Zumba, yoga, Chinese line dancing, tai chi, ballroom dancing and computer classes.
One particular class seems to attract many of the Asian seniors and is growing bigger. That is the English learning class.
Some of these students carried backpacks, notebooks and took diligent notes in class. A few of them filled their entire three-ring binders full of pronunciation notes in Chinese for English with exquisite handwriting.
“All the students enjoy the class and work very hard,” said Peggy Luo, a student who also helps as an interpreter at the English class. “It’s a great class, because some really didn’t know a word of English before the class, and they can carry simple conversations with others.”
The class takes place once a week, filled with about 25 retiree students. Some classes have as many as 35 seniors present. Many of the Asian students are alone. Joining different activities and classes at the center provide these independent seniors a place to connect, as they end up seeing each other almost every day. Some of the seniors have formed an extended family to look after one another, as many of their relatives live overseas.
“It’s about community, not about any one particular community; it’s about seniors joining together as a whole,” said Jeanne Benoit, director of the Malden Senior Center. “During last year’s snowstorm season, the center was forced to close for a few days, and there were about 40 seniors waiting outside at center.”
In a way, the senior center has become a second home to many of these immigrant seniors.
After the class, you can hear students practicing new vocabulary together at the center’s atrium.
“It’s important for seniors to learn English because it breaks the isolation,” said Bill Regan, English teacher at the senior center. “It helps for daily tasks like getting on the bus and buying groceries.
The English class provides students with practical ways to use English while helping them build their own community as they integrate into American society.
Wong Li Yun, an native from Shandong province is delighted to understand simple English conversation after attending the English class for a few months.
“It’s never too late to learn English,” Regan said. “I am so happy to teach English to them; it makes my day.”
“They play bingo now, because they understand,” Benoit said. She noting that some of the students with their new English skills have joined other activities at the senior center.
“I am seeing different seniors interacting together,” Benoit said.
The students now share a common denominator of English, helping them in mind, body and spirit.
This post is also available in: Chinese