English as a Second Language

The English as a Second Language (ESL) program teaches conversational English, reading, and writing to adults whose native language is not English. The main objective is to improve learners' English communication skills, imparting basic survival information and expanding their understanding of our community, and the United States.  Students then acquire knowledge, and skills to be better family members, employees, and active partners in the education of their children, and members of society.

Six levels of closed-enrollment classes, ranging from Low Beginning to High Advanced, are taught in small groups.  GLC complements its research-based curriculum with relevant supplemental materials such as credit and job applications, bank forms, and emergency information.  At the end of each session, post-assessments determine continuation at the same level, advancement, or completion.   Students preparing for the GED are transitioned into pre-GED classes when their formal assessments reflect mastery of requisite skills.  

The ESL population is highly motivated, and with the help of our outstanding volunteer tutors, students quickly improve daily living skills such as understanding directions at work or ordering food in an American restaurant.  Even more commendable, however, is the frequent achievement of such life-changing goals as obtaining employment or promotions, going to the doctor without a translator, understanding bills or documents that arrive in the mail, opening a bank account, or helping a child succeed in school. 

Advanced ESL

In Pursuit of a Better Life

Hector Cortes began taking ESL classes at Gaston Literacy Council in 2003 with a minimal grasp of conversational English. Thirsting for knowledge and understanding, he embraced the language and culture and now his test scores categorize him as an advanced level student. “Classes have increased my possibilities to earn more money and have a better job,” Hector stated. “I have better communication. My conversational skills are growing. Everyday, my co-workers and clients tell me my English is better.”

Equipped with an enormous English vocabulary, he is now determined to increase his speed and flow of the language. “My aspiration is to have my own company here,” he states with enthusiasm. “First, my goals are to continue my education and go to college.”

Hector has a diploma from Columbia, his native country, and attended college there, and he would like to earn the same credentials in the United States. The first step is to acquire a GED. Although the GED is offered in Spanish, Hector feels that taking the English version will better prepare him for college courses. Hector mused, “Why not do it? All my life, I want to be learning new things.”

Hector’s advanced placement qualified him for additional classes in our pre-GED program. According to him, history is one the areas that is least familiar to Hispanics but yet the most important. He states, “This is necessary information people need to know to pass the oral interview for citizenship. It is so important to know the constitution, presidents, customs, laws, and policies of this country.”

In response to the classes, he stated, “It is important to see how the immigrants have been coming to this country and how they discovered new opportunities for their life. I think it was perhaps more difficult in early history for immigrants. They had to create many of their own opportunities. For me, there are already many.”

Civics & Citizenship

Civics lessons impart practical, everyday information, including understanding the United States system of government, its court systems, and requirements for applying for citizenship.  Learning is reinforced through guided relevant discussions and activities such as cultural differences and holiday celebrations.

Information about North Carolina’s regional attractions and historical sites helps students plan trips and facilitates an ongoing dialogue about our State’s history and culture.  Maps, bus schedules, and ferry fares are also addressed so that students become familiar with our transportation system.

Courses on United States history up to 1865 allow students to relate to topics such as immigration, slavery, and civil rights, and provide opportunities for discussion about individual experiences and native countries.

Intro to Citizenship
(Pre-Citizenship training in Civics Facts) Curriculum was developed in 2010 as an introductory course for limited English speakers (Beginning and Low Intermediate ESL levels). To participate, students must have a stated goal of "Achieve Citizenship Skills," and they must attend Conversational English classes. In conjunction with reading skills, spelling, writing, geography, directions, and map reading, Intro to Citizenship covers eligibility requirements and focuses on Citizenship vocabulary. The Social Studies component covers the significance of major holidays, North Carolina resources, regional Civics and attractions.

Citizenship Classes are offered for students who provide proof of Permanent Residence and who have a documented goal of "Achieve Citizenship Skills." These classes are designed for students functioning at the Low and High Intermediate and Advanced ESL levels.

The following topics are covered in this class: The Naturalization Process (application, biometrics appointment, interview, and ceremony); American History, American Government, Integrated Civics (geography, symbols, holidays), Colonial period and Independence, the 1800s, Recent American History, American Indians / Native Americans, Principles of American Democracy, Systems of Government, and Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship.  

Students practice pronunciation, grammar, spelling, writing, word blends, reading comprehension, and verb tenses, with a particular focus on irregular past-tense verbs. The class also builds listening skills through the practice of writing dictated sentences. 

Health Literacy

Through a partnership with Gaston Together and the Gaston Community Healthcare Commission, Gaston Literacy supplements its conversational English classes with a health literacy curriculum.  The program uses the guidebook Health at Home®, developed by the American Institute for Preventive Medicine, and The Oxford Picture Dictionary, published by the Oxford University Press.  Health at Home® covers wise medical consumerism, common health problems, major medical conditions, and emergencies.

The curriculum is designed to offer preventative advice and to help students know when it is best to self-treat, go to the doctor, or seek emergency help.  Lesson plans include understanding the importance of a primary care physician, winter safety, understanding the pharmacy, taking prescription medications, insurance, and medical tests and exams.  This project is on-going and the guidebook for making medical decisions is also available to beginning ESL students in Spanish.

In response to a recent survey regarding the Health Literacy curriculum, 88% of those surveyed said they have learned to read labels on medicines, 83% said they feel more comfortable talking to their doctor, 92% said they have learned about common health problems, symptoms, and treatments, and all said they have learned new things about their bodies and health.



“This is a good place to learn English because many Americans do not like the Hispanic people. It’s no problem here in this place. Everybody here is very nice to me and my friend Beda.”
~ Jose Miguel Torres said in class one day

“Early immigrants had to create many of their own opportunities. For me, there are already many.”
~ Hector Cortes

“I like the English classes because they follow the sequence. I understand. All teachers explain very well.”


“I hereby declare, on oath, that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America. I will bear true faith and allegiance so help me God,”
~ pledged Raquel as she received her citizenship certificate