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.
Classes are offered at two levels (for those with basic English skills and for more fluent English speakers) and all meetings are currently held remotely via Zoom. Classes will resume on September 9, 2022.
For more information or to inquire about attending or volunteering as a teacher, contact St. Brendan's.
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.
"My house was near St. Brendan Church for a long time. I noticed they had ESL classes when they started. But I did not contact them even though I needed to study English. I worried that they would not qualify me as a student because I was not a church member. I did not want them to push me to become a church member. One day my friend invited me to this ESL class. I realized my misunderstanding. The tutors are very nice, kind and intelligent. Their skill is very effective and they never pressure my beliefs. Do not hesitate to come to ESL Conversation Friends at St. Brendan Church if you want to improve your English.
I never realized how much immigrants needed help with our language and customs until I started working with them. We always have fun and laugh together about common situations that we experience as well as learning so much about other cultures. In a way, it is like traveling to different countries without leaving Pittsburgh. Our students have become our friends and they are so appreciative of everything that our parish volunteers do with them.
-Joyce D. (volunteer)