The Frugal Café | Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup"</a> | Creative Commons License,
Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup" | Creative Commons License,

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Free Online English Classes for Non-English-Speaking Adults (but Only if You Speak Spanish)

By Vicki McClure Davidson


So many immigrants to the United States are eager to learn to speak and write well in English, but the cost for such coursework is high. But now, thanks to the free website U.S.A. Learns, they can do it at home and without having to pay anything for the online curriculum. The U.S. Department of Education and the California Department of Education have combined resources and have recently launched its latest education brain-child. And it offers a lot of promise, although there is an obvious downside to it.

This new site states that it is designed to help adults learn English and to improve basic reading, writing, speaking, and life skills, using online technology. From the site's "About Us" page:

"U.S.A. Learns was an outgrowth of a project that was conceived by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), Office of Vocational and Adult Education, Division of Adult Education and Literacy (DAEL). Core funding for U.S.A. Learns was provided by ED. Additional funding for U.S.A. Learns was made available by the California Department of Education, Office of Adult Education.

"DAEL promotes programs that help American adults get the basic skills they need to be productive workers, family members, and citizens. The major areas of support are Adult Basic Education, Adult Secondary Education, and English Language Acquisition. These programs emphasize basic skills such as reading, writing, math, English language competency, and problem-solving."

It's commendable that such efforts are being made to enhance and develop the language skills of non-English-speaking adults. Offering the online course material for free is remarkable and a great alternative to online college courses that require tuition.

However, the home page only offers two languages in which to hear the information from the video overview: English and Spanish. Just Spanish?

We clicked through the site and saw that no other languages are supported for English-language training. Below, we've included two photo captures from the U.S.A. Learns home and introduction pages, with some commentary and red arrows added.


Two photo captures from the introductory and home pages of the new U.S.A. Learns website: as the captures show, only Spanish-speaking people are supported to learn English at this time on this free site.


So, it appears that, at least for now, the English-language-training needs of immigrants from Russia, China, Japan, Germany, Thailand, Korea, Vietnam, Serbia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Greece, Poland, Estonia, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, all African and Indian countries, and many others will have to wait. We couldn't find any information about when/if any of the languages of these countries would be accommodated in the future.

Granted, there are thousands of languages through out the world, so we really didn't expect the site to be able to support them all. However, expecting the site to support a few other languages—not just Spanish—seems reasonable. Based on the site description provided by our Google search, it implied that all adults would be able to learn English for free using this website. No disclaimer anywhere (that we could find, anyway) that only Spanish is supported. No "At this time, we're proud of our Spanish-to-English support and will be launching our cutting-edge Chinese-to-English and Polish-to-English support in a few months..." or something of that nature.

A heads-up of planned expansion or future planned language support upgrades would let visitors know that other languages will eventually be supported. Omission of such information simply isn't good communication. But, hey, that could change, and the site IS fairly new, so we'll cool our jets for now and be patient.

If they are taking any suggestions, maybe Hawaiian, several Native American languages, and/or Inuit (spoken in Alaska) could be included in the site's next update since those are native languages of the United States. Just a thought.

This site should be a blessing for so many adults coming into America, since enrollment for adult English classes are usually very expensive. The training material looks very competent. However, only Spanish-speaking people will find this site at all useful right now. We'll continue to monitor it and will report when other languages are added.


For more information about the overall project, you can contact the U.S. Department of Education – OVAE, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20202-7100.
Telephone: (202) 245-7700.





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