When New Haven resident Carla Ferrada walks into the New Haven Free Public Library on Elm Street every Tuesday and Thursday, she knows that she will find an encouraging environment to practice her English skills.

Twice a week, Yale students gather at the library to offer free English as Second Language courses to New Haven residents. The program is part of New Haven Interns — a Yale College Council and Dwight Hall initiative that aims to foster a closer relationship between Yale and the Elm City by encouraging Yalies to intern in the community. According to Alejandro Ortega ’22, an intern with the program, students started their internships in late February and will continue with the program until the end of classes.

Program participants interviewed by the News said that they feel more comfortable speaking English because of the program.

“I think for me it’s difficult to have [the] confidence to speak English with other people because when I get very nervous I forget everything, and I don’t know what words to use. This [class] is very helpful,” Ferrada said. “I think I am better [now] than when I arrived here. When I first came here I didn’t speak [any English].”

Patrycja Marczyk, a fellow ESL student, shares this sentiment. Marczyk said that at home, she only speaks Polish, so the ESL classes give her a place to practice. Marczyk praised the course for teaching not only grammar but also common phrases used in daily life.

The class stands apart from other ESL programs due to its flexible curriculum, according to Ortega. While some ESL students can spend time learning grammar, others can work on improving their CVs or college applications.

“I mostly work with one student helping him with his CV,” Ortega said. “We also just went over some narrative writing and more generally some English idioms, particularly English rules that may be confusing to a non-native speaker.”

Yale interns develop a close bond to their students, said Zalma Vivanco ’20, another intern for the program. Vivanco, whose parents do not speak English, said that she sees the program as a great opportunity to help New Haven residents.

Both Ortega and Vivanco praised the program for fostering connections between the New Haven residents and Yale interns.

“This program is important because we do have a diverse community [in the ESL class]. A lot of the people here may not necessarily get the instruction they need and their exposure to English may be limited to one context,” said Ortega. “We have people from all over the world here, and they all may have similar questions about English which helps their learning.”

In the U.S., 22% of people do not speak English at home.

Kelly Wei |