Letter: Building bridges through language learning

On Monday, I met with my English in Action student, Gloria, at the Basalt library. We talked about what we did for Mother’s Day, how to sign her daughter up for an art class and swim lessons, and what we were going to make for dinner that night. We will see each other again next week and maybe go for a hike — ordinary conversations and activities with a friend.

Yet this relationship is the result of a unique opportunity that English in Action offers to everyone in our community who is curious about different cultures and wants to learn from another’s life experiences. English in Action has given Gloria and me the chance to share our lives and to learn from each other.

I am helping Gloria improve her skills in English. Together we work on her reading and writing. We use workbooks to understand and practice grammar and learn the long list of irregular verbs. She is practicing for an upcoming parent/teacher conference for her third-grade daughter.

Gloria is helping me understand the challenges of life as an immigrant in the Roaring Fork Valley. Getting jobs, going to the doctor, renting an apartment, participating in her children’s education and supporting them in school activities all demand that Gloria communicate in English.

Fortunately, Gloria is determined and comes to tutoring enthusiastic to try whatever exercise I give her. She is glad to make mistakes as long as she can learn something new. She laughs easily, and we both marvel at the complexity of the English language.

As an English in Action volunteer tutor, I have received training and ongoing support and coaching to teach English. I was matched with Gloria three years ago, and our time spent together has changed how I interact with my community. I have a deeper appreciation for immigrants who are eager to learn English and become more active participants in our community. I have a better understanding of how important it is for each of us to reach out and connect, to share our skills and talents, and to learn from one another.

I do not speak much Spanish, though Gloria would like me to learn. Gloria and I spend only about four hours a month together. As we both live busy lives, we are not always consistent with our meetings. But like any two friends, Gloria and I fall right into the next conversation, the next moment to be shared, with compassion, laughter and gratitude for English in Action and the bridges it is building every day in the Roaring Fork Valley.

I invite you to learn more about English in Action at and how you, too, can participate in bridging the communication gap to help strengthen our whole community.

Lynn Nichols