By Ukee Washington
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — When people immigrate to the United States, it can be a challenge to learn English, especially as an adult. As Ukee Washington shows us, volunteers are donating their time and expertise to help.
Jane Meng arrived in the United States in 1997. She had already lived in China and Japan and knew the languages of those countries, but that didn’t help here.
“I didn’t speak English, so first year, I didn’t leave my apartment,” she said with a smile.
Then Jane found out about the non-profit Center For Literacy and its volunteer tutors. She was matched up with Dick Behr. Dick didn’t know Chinese or Japanese, but he could teach.
“The way CFL teaches you to do that is by sounds,” Dick explained. “We have something like forty sounds, I think it is, for our 26 letters — the long A and the short A and everything in between. So you begin with these small words, the ‘the’ and the ‘at’ and the ‘is.'”
The Center for Literacy’s 200 tutors taught for 1,100 hours in 2011. Area coordinator Vann DeLaine says Dick Behr is extra special: “The work that he’s done with his learners, the relationship that they’ve got, what his learners have been to accomplish, those are things, you know, money can’t buy that.”
Over the next couple of years, Dick and Jane made steady progress. Jane’s English progressed enough to study accounting and business in English. She’s now a senior accountant at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and received her MBA from Strayer University in June 2012.
“Center for Literacy is a wonderful organization,” Jane said.
Jane is now a naturalized citizen, and she and her son often visit Dick and his wife.
“It’s a joy to see people progress,” said Behr.
And to make new friends in new places.
To connect with the Center for Literacy, visit: www.centerforliteracy.org