ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The Orange County Library System offers English and Spanish courses for all skill levels, free of charge.
The course use to be taught in-person at several of its branches, but because of the pandemic, they’ve had to go virtual. You can now learn English or Spanish from just about anywhere.
“As a new immigrant I wanted to improve my language, I want to get more in the community,” said Hetty Huang.
Huang was born and raised in China. A few years ago, she moved to the U.S. with hopes of studying at the University of Central Florida. With little English, she took the college entry test.
“I failed, but I didn’t give up, I continued to study,” said Huang.
She started taking English courses with the Orange County Library System. The curriculum created 15 years ago by ESL Specialist Jelitza Rivera.
“We have writing courses. Writing clearly with grammar and we work slowly to help them get to whole paragraphs and cover letters. Then we have speaking classes where we work on pronunciation,” said Rivera.
Rivera said she understands how it feels to learn a new language.
“I moved from Puerto Rico to New York when I was younger. In New York, we didn’t have the services to help ESL learning and throughout school I struggled a little bit to learn the language and excel academically,” said Rivera.
Rivera said moving from in-person classes to virtual provides more flexibility for her students. She said the program now has more than 200 students from many different cultures.
“We have Chinese, Mandarin and Vietnamese students. We have Arabic students and we have a lot of Brazilians, not just Spanish,” said Rivera. “I get exposure to a lot more culture, a lot more language. As a professional, I become better informed.”
The library also offers several free digital resources to help you continue learning outside of class, from your phone or computer.
Mila Porroa is a student and colleague of Rivera’s. Born in Peru, Spanish is her first language. She’s been taking English classes with the Orange County Library System to improve her communication skills.
“I feel more confident to apply the grammar lesson’s I’ve learned from her and it’s been helpful,” said Porroa.
Spanish and English courses are offered for adults and children. OCLS even offers classes for families. You can drop in whenever you want, and there’s no grades. Even though they’re virtual, students said they are still interactive.
“When new members come from different countries, we do have language barriers, but we are very open minded to share things from our countries. Usually it starts with ‘what’s your favorite food’ and we start communicating that way,” said Huang. “It gives us a feeling that it’s like home. You can make friends here, you can talk to employees and ask questions and share experiences.”
After several months of daily classes, Huang decided to take the college entry test again and passed.
“I was very grateful; I was happy that I was going to go back to college. I got accepted to UCF,” said Huang.
Whether you want to learn English to gain citizenship, further your education or just improve on what you already know, the Orange County Library System has created a welcoming environment for everyone to learn English or Spanish at their own pace.
To get access to the free language courses, you’ll need a library card. Here’s how to sign up.