Oakland English Center enters 33rd year of service

January 4, 2010 7:17:54 PM PST
For hundreds of immigrants in the East Bay, today marks the beginning of a new journey. They're learning English and this was their first day of school.

It's the first day of class and the marching orders are clear. In this school from here on out, it is English only.

Students come from around the world and many just recently arrived in the United States.

Tedros Negassi left war torn East Africa only four months ago and now he is among the hundreds of students studying the language of his new country at the English Center in Oakland.

"English is good. You go to work, you go to everything. You have to know English," he said.

Others have lived in the country for decades and finally decided it was time to learn the language.

Beatriz Mora says she was passed over for promotions at work because she couldn't speak English. Three months ago, she decided to take her first English class.

"I want to learn English, writing and reading and speaking more correctly," she said.

The students who walk through these doors have the desire to learn English, but they also have to have the time. Instructors here say it takes eight months of full immersion to learn the language.

"We believe that English is the key skill, that it will open the doors to all the opportunities of the greater society 14:28," Executive Director Marcy Jackson said.

A greater society Lithuania native Alex Sobol is thankful to be a part of. He spoke no English when he came to the U.S. more than a year ago.

"It will be good to dream English language I await this moment," he said.

Awaiting the moment when he can dream in English is part of his American dream.