Many people have sour memories of trying to learn a foreign language in school. So one can only imagine the difficulty in learning a second language if you can’t read and write.
It’s a problem widespread among Mexicans living in the U.S, a Mexican Consulate official said.
“Some of the people who came here from Mexico, in fact, most of the people who came here from Mexico really, most of them didn’t even know how to read and write. Many of them didn’t finish primary school,” said Grecia Garza, community affairs officer at the Mexican Consulate in Atlanta.
To help combat illiteracy and promote English-language learning, the Mexican Consulate is collaborating with Cielos Abiertos church in Gainesville to sponsor English and Spanish classes at its Aviation Boulevard facility.
Immigrants who leave their home countries in search of better opportunities feel stifled by the language barrier. But learning English is an enormous undertaking for people who cannot read or write in their native tongue.
“This is a tool to make them literate. It’s important if they’re trying to be here, because if they don’t even know their home language, it’s very difficult, and they are trying to improve their way of life,” she said. “In this way, they can learn Spanish, improve it, and then learn English.”
Such is the case for Jorge, an older gentleman who left school early in life growing up in Mexico. Now he said, he is proud to see the young children in the community who can read and write in English and Spanish. But for him, the idea of catching up is difficult.
“A lot of people think we come here and we don’t care about learning English,” he said. “That is not the truth.”
The classes will be offered free, she said, not just to Mexicans but people of any nationality who want to achieve Spanish literacy.
“The opportunity is for Mexicans and non-Mexicans. People who have the will to study Spanish, whether they are from Mexico, Guatemala or El Salvador,” Garza said.
Community leaders are happy to coordinate with the Mexican Consulate to ensure needs in the Hispanic community are met.
“There’s such a need for English classes. I know how important it is,” said Gabriel Lopez, director of the Passion Music Institute, where classes will be held when music instruction isn’t using the classroom space.