BMCC and Chinatown Partnership LDC Collaborate on English Language Skills

September 4, 2007

The U.S. Department of Labor, Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corp. and BMCC collaborated this summer to teach 12 workers in Chinatown how to speak the English language.

The program was designed to improve Chinatown employees’ English and customer service skills so that they feel more comfortable working in the neighborhood. It was funded by a Labor Department grant, which has funded 11 other similar programs, helping 240 learners across the City’s five boroughs learn English through BMCC’s Center for Continuing Education & Workforce Development. The students attended two classes a week with adjunct instructor Jason Feinberg, starting in May, and graduated at the end of August.

The group work as employees of the partnership’s “Clean Streets,” cleaning the Chinatown streets, painting mailboxes and light posts, and doing other jobs to improve the quality of life in the community. They frequently come into contact with tourists who need directions to a subway or bus stop, or ask other questions.

Wellington Chen, CEO of the Chinatown Partnership LDC and a CUNY Trustee, said he was pleased that his organization was able to partner with BMCC on the skills training, not just because his employees skills grew, but because his employees are better human beings as a result of the experience.

“When you learn a new language, no matter what language you learn, you begin to see the world in a different light, and gain a new appreciation for life. Every culture has a different perspective on life, and this is reflected in the way societies develop their languages. By learning English, our employees are not only in a better position to serve visitors to Chinatown, but they better understand their adopted countries and the society they now live in,” he said.

When they joined, the workers were nearly at the lowest level of English speaking, said L. Patrick Dail, Senior Administrator for BMCC’s Center for Continuing Education & Workforce Development.

“Most were not conversant in the English language at all,” Dail said. But over the course of four months, they showed improvement. “The majority of the class is now comfortable with the basics of the handling the language.


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