Posted on February 3, 2015

Editorial: Program offers new opportunities for Spanish speakers

The Issue: A Berks Technical Institute class gives students the English skills they need to further their studies.

Our Opinion: Efforts to help people develop the tools for a successful career are worthy of applause.

There is a stereotype out there that suggests Spanish speakers who come to the United States have little incentive to learn English. After all, the argument goes, many accommodations are made for Spanish speakers in America today, and Spanish is the first language within some communities with heavy concentrations of newcomers.

But the reality is, people who are coming here for better opportunities have every reason in the world to learn English. If the goal of moving to the United States is to get a better job, the ability to speak English is absolutely essential.

Berks Technical Institute in Wyomissing has recognized this need. Since 2010 BTI has been offering a course on the foundations of English. The idea is to give students the ability to master the language well enough that they can take other courses the school offers.

This approach benefits everyone. The students develop a valuable skill in an environment where they are made to feel comfortable. Those students then become customers for BTI's other classes, which benefits the private, for-profit school. And the community at large benefits by having a stronger workforce, as the students have an opportunity to go and take advantage of more classes that will help them train for a career.

Since 2013 the school has been working with Rosetta Stone, a computer-based language program. Isabel Monterrosa, director of the BTI program, said the partnership provides the school with the tools it needs to teach, track and measure its students' grasp of English. Currently there are about 45 students enrolled in the program.

One of its best features, she said, is the ability to have students speak into a microphone to ensure proper pronunciation. In the past, she said, getting students to speak was always the toughest part. The program also allows students to practice English at home, where many don't use the language, with the option to log on from their home computers or mobile devices.

In a recent Reading Eagle feature on the program, Raidirys Jimenez, 17, talked about how the program paved the way for her to further her education. Jimenez, a recent immigrant from the Dominican Republic, came to BTI having had no exposure to English. After nine months of studying English at BTI, the Reading resident speaks the language with only a hint of an accent and is enrolled in a business administration program. She hopes to own a hotel and casino one day.

Fellow student Carolin Baez, 21, of Reading, who completed the same program, is taking paralegal courses and dreaming of law school.

"It's hard," she said of the English course. "But if you try and you're always positive, you can do it."

Our community should celebrate the opportunities that BTI and other local educational institutions offer to people with little or no grasp of English. It is far better to smooth the path for newcomers who don't speak our language to become productive citizens than to bemoan their presence.

"They're coming here to gain skills to change their lives," Monterrosa said of the BTI program's students.

Surely that is an idea we can all get behind.

 

Editorial. Program offers new opportunities for Spanish speakers. Readingeagle.com. N/A, 03 Feb. 2015. Web. .