According to 2010 US Census data, 12.9 percent of people living in the US were born as non-US citizens in other countries. The top 10 nations that contribute these immigrants to our nation’s population are all non-English speaking countries. Imagine being dropped into a country that speaks a language entirely different than yours — it would be stressful and difficult, wouldn’t it? That’s what happens to many of these refugees and immigrants that come here.
Tucson has resources to help these people to learn English, and many of them are free. Literacy Connects is a program dedicated entirely to helping people learn English, and there are other organizations that offer many different kinds of support like the Tucson International Alliance of Refugee Communities. Representatives from two community programs and one immigrant all told me that learning English is essential to living well here in the US, and that these programs are critical to the success of those that are new to this country and don’t speak the language.
And while it seems that there is a lot available to help these people, some wonder if there isn’t more that can be done to help. Julio Pájaro, an immigrant from Mexico, said that he would have invested more time in learning English when he arrived if he had known more about what was offered him. Whether it was for lack of publicity of what programs already existed, or a true lack of overall resources in general is hard to say, but Pájaro said he didn’t know where to turn.
Regina Suitt, dean of adult education at Pima Community College, also said that what is currently offered isn’t sufficient for the immigrant population of Tucson. There are always waiting lists for the English language programs that Pima runs, she said. Their programs help 6,000 students each year learn English, and still they cannot fit everyone in. Suitt thinks investing in English language acquisition programs is a strong investment in the future of Tucson because most of these people are here to stay. English will help them both contribute and benefit from the local community, she said.
The following video shows the perspective of two immigrants and two community programs in Tucson. They all address English language acquisition and its importance to people that are new to the US.
This map provides contact information for different centers in Tucson that offer English classes.