ESL Conversation Friends
St. Brendan’s English as a Second Language conversation groups are free of charge and open to adults from all nations and all religious and economic backgrounds.
Tuesdays: 10:00 am -11:30 am
Wednesdays: 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Thursdays: 10:00 am – 11:30 am
Since April 2017, St. Brendan’s English as a Second Language (ESL) ministry, Conversation Friends, puts Christ’s love into action by reaching out to help immigrants and citizens for whom English is not their native language. We provide a friendly, compassionate setting where our new friends can comfortably practice their speaking and listening skills with guidance from our volunteer instructors and without fear of embarrassment. For many of our students, indeed, Conversation Friends is the only place where they can practice speaking or understanding English—and they are very grateful for the opportunity.
Students are welcome to attend whenever they are able; there is no expectation that they will attend all three classes in a given week. We currently meet using Zoom, but look forward to returning to St. Brendan’s for face-to-face conversations as our nation makes progress in defeating the COVID pandemic.
In the past four years, we have welcomed students from Japan, South Korea, China, Haiti, Brazil, India, Belarus and Ukraine. Most were professionals in their own countries: teachers, engineers, computer specialists, musicians, civil servants, etc. Some of our volunteer instructors are members of St. Brendan’s, but several belong to nearby faith communities or are just friends of our parish. Our program is affiliated with Literacy Pittsburgh, which offers our students additional resources while also periodically assessing their progress.
We offer groups at two level of proficiency. For more fluent speakers, classes involve lively discussions, instruction in the use of new words and idioms, and practice in using English in everyday settings (ordering a meal, speaking with a child’s teacher). Topics for discussion are often suggested by the students themselves: current events, the history of our nation, American culture, our system of government, and U.S. geography. For those with more basic skills, the focus in our classes falls on English pronunciation and grammar, on reading comprehension, and on a more basic introduction to American culture. Our students are very friendly and eager to come to class, while volunteers enjoy the students’ enthusiasm and the appreciation they express for the help we give and for the spirit in which we give it.