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Oct 04, 2023 | April Xu and Nancy Chen

Free English Classes for Chinese New Yorkers

Learning and mastering English can open doors of opportunity for immigrants living in the United States. Not only does it help you communicate more fluently with others and integrate more quickly into the local community, but it also broadens your horizons regarding career opportunities, education and hobbies. In a survey conducted by Documented among Chinese New Yorkers last year, 60% of the respondents said they did not consume news in English, and 94% of them cited language barriers as the main reason. About 15% of the respondents mentioned that when they first arrived in the U.S., they wanted access to resources and information, including English-language classes.

Also Read: Free and Affordable Health Care for Chinese Immigrants in NYC

This article compiles a list of free English classes offered by New York City and Chinese community organizations that you can sign up for, regardless of your immigration status. 

If you have any questions or know of other free English classes for Chinese New York immigrants that are not on this list, please email april.xu@documentedny.com.

New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) Adult Education

NYCDOE offers tuition-free adult education programs for New York City residents age 21 years or above who do not have a U.S. high school diploma or its equivalent. The programs include English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), Adult Basic Education (ABE) and High School Equivalency Preparation (HSE). Classes are offered morning, afternoon and evening, Monday through Saturday, at more than 170 locations across the five boroughs, including public schools, community centers, and religious organizations. Students may be required to pay fees associated with textbooks, certification exams or uniforms for certain courses.

How to enroll

  • Visit an enrollment hub to register. There are 11 enrollment hubs in New York City that are open Monday through Thursday. Click here to visit your nearest hub during the appropriate opening hours.
  • Register online by filling out this form.

For more information, email adultednyc@schools.nyc.gov or call 646-481-8227.

New York Public Library (NYPL) free English classes and literacy programs for adults

The adult English class and literacy program offered by the NYPL helps adult students improve their English communication skills. The program includes both online and in-person English classes, with in-person conversation classes offered at over 20 libraries in the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island.

These courses are series-based, offered throughout the year in 10-week cycles. Most courses are held twice a week for two hours each day. Saturday morning elective courses are four hours long. Courses are divided into the following three categories: ESOL courses which help non-native English speakers improve their listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills; Adult Basic Education courses which are for students who already speak English but want to improve their reading and writing skills; and English for Work classes which are for intermediate to advanced English language learners looking for a job, or who are already employed but want a better job. 

Click here to register for a course. Details can be found here. The NYPL also provides other resources to help you learn English at home for free.

City University of New York (CUNY) ESOL, Basic Education (BE), and High School Equivalency Preparation (TASC/HSE) classes

CUNY offers free classes for adults who want to learn English or take TASC (Test Assessing Secondary Completion, formerly GED). These classes are offered throughout the year and are located at various sites throughout New York City. Most classes require online registration, and you will need to provide basic information such as your name, address, email and date of birth.

Columbia University ESOL, Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC), CUNY Assessment Test (CAT) Prep and BE classes

Columbia University offers free classes for New York City residents, which are divided into different levels from beginner to advanced depending on the learner’s English proficiency level. The program also offers courses to improve pronunciation. The courses are offered three times a year, with each series of courses lasting 12 weeks. Click here to register and learn more.

YMCA New Americans Initiative

The New Americans Initiative offers adult immigrants, refugees and asylees a menu of services in-person, in the Chinatown, Flushing, Flatbush and Harlem communities as well as online classes. The services include ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), Workforce Readiness and Training, and Civics to support individuals in learning English, obtaining certifications in the Restaurant Industry and learning American customs, culture, citizenship and government. All programs are free of charge. More information, including eligibility requirements and registration links can be found here: https://ymcanyc.org/programs/community/new-americans-initiative or email newamericans@ymcanyc.org.

Chinatown Youth Initiatives (CYI) free English classes

CYI’s Chinatown Literacy Project provides English education by young volunteers and aims to develop students’ self-confidence and language skills in spoken English. Courses include basic grammar, vocabulary, English slang, common phrases; topic-based contextualized conversations, such as daily life in New York, hobbies and travel. Courses are divided into beginner, intermediate and advanced classes. Students can choose the most suitable class according to their own level. Click here for more details.

University Settlement free adult ESOL classes

Adult English class at University Settlement is a 10-month program that will help you to improve your listening, reading, speaking and writing skills. Classes are divided into different levels and are suitable for students from beginners to advanced levels. The program provides free textbooks and materials and is completely free of charge. Students will be tested for English proficiency before entering the program. You can take daytime, evening or weekend classes according to your own schedule.

You must be:

  • At least 18 years old;
  • A NYC resident and provide proof of address
  • Able to attend 10 months of in-person classes

Fill out the Adult English Classes form if you are interested and University Settlement will contact you.

Address: 184 Eldridge St., New York, NY 10002

Phone: 212-453-4500

Chinatown Manpower Project (CMP) free English classes

Chinese Manpower Project provides online or in-person free English classes with options for morning, afternoon, evening, and weekend schedules. Free textbooks are available for those signing up early. If you are interested, contact Shirley at 646-292-9680.

Address: 55 Chrystie St., 2nd Fl., New York, NY 10002

Chinese-American Planning Council free adult English classes

Started in 1998, the Adult Literacy Program provides classes for over 500 students in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens annually. The program allows students to acquire practical, everyday English skills that are essential to improving their quality of life in the U.S. The program includes daily practice of listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills; daily practice of useful, real-life skills; and offers job development, college preparation, citizenship workshops and social support for all students.

Program contact: Jeff Lau

Address: 165 Eldridge St. 2nd Fl., New York, NY 10002

Phone: 212-941-0041

Email: ecsinfo@cpc-nyc.org

Brooklyn Chinese-American Association free ESOL classes

The Association primarily serves immigrants living in Sunset Park, Borough Park and other neighborhoods by providing a variety of free adult education classes and services. Classes provided include Basic English in the Native Language (BENL), English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), and Adult Basic Education (ABE) classes; employment skills training classes, including job application, resume writing, interview skills, designed to empower immigrant job seekers; and citizenship ESOL and citizenship interview preparation classes. It also offers English classes for older adults.

Address: 5000 8th Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11220

Phone: 718-438-0008

Email: esol@bca.net

Educational Alliance’s Manny Cantor Center – Family Resource Center (FRC) adult ESOL classes

The center’s English classes are offered by the Borough of Manhattan College and New York Institute of Technology, working with experienced instructors to improve your English listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. Courses include elementary and intermediate comprehensive English classes, oral practice groups and citizenship classes. Click here for more information. All classes are free and offered in English only. They do not ask for applicants’ immigration status.

Address: 197 East Broadway, New York, NY 10002

Phone: 646-395-4222

Email Sophia: esol@edalliance.org

Chinese Christian Herald Crusades free English classes

This learning center offers free English classes for community members on Mondays and Tuesdays from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The teachers are experienced and adjust the teaching materials according to the needs of the Chinese immigrants. Courses cover daily English and Bible stories are offered in both English and Chinese. Seats are limited. First come, first served. Click here for more details.

Address: 42-35 Main St., 2nd Fl., Flushing, NY 11355

Phone: 718-799-8218, 718-799-8213

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