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August 07, 2023

The Library Gave Me Hope

By Shengchu Xu

2023 is the year of stories at Hamilton East Public Library. Every month on our blog, we’re featuring a guest writer from our community to share in their own words what the library means to them. We hope these stories will demonstrate that there’s something for everyone at the library, and you belong here. 

Our August library story speaks about the library giving hope that you can learn new things at any age, even learning to speak English as an old man.

“I am an old man, almost 80 years old. I am originally from Shanghai, China. I moved to Indiana when I was almost 60 years old. Initially, I worked at a Chinese restaurant owned by my relative. So, even though I was physically here in America, I was still surrounded with people who mostly spoke Chinese. I knew learning English is important, however I lacked the motivation and passion to study a new language. Later, I changed to a different job working in a childcare center in IUPUI as a custodian. For quite a few years, my work was to clean the facility. Maybe because I was older, my brain just did not really pick up English as quickly as I should have, even though there were a lot of native English speakers that tried to say hi to me there.

So, I have almost always found myself in this situation. I do not understand people when they talk, and they could not understand me when I open my mouth. I felt bad because it has really been very inconvenient for me to do a lot of things here, as doing almost everything requires English. I felt as if I had a great car in my garage, but I do not have the license to drive.

New Hope at the Library

I retired last year. My son told me that there was an adult English learning program at my local Fishers library. Initially, I said “No,” as I was afraid to learn English at the moment. I thought English was maybe just not for me, since I have already been here for 20 years, and it never “liked” me. So, I already kind of gave up. But, my son never gave up. He was very persistent and tried to talk to me many times to encourage me to give the class a try. He said there is no tuition to pay, and there is nothing for me to lose, etc. So, finally, I decided to give it a try.

The ENL Conversation Group meeting at the Fishers Library.

I have been attending the class for four months now. I have tried to listen very carefully in the class and tried to have the courage to open my mouth to talk in English. And, I spent a lot of time to do my homework at home too. So, gradually, I have overcome my fear, and I have enjoyed the joy of making a little progress with my studies.

Learning English

I think the English class (ENL Conversation Group) in the Fishers library is very good and unique.

1) Students are from all around the world with different English levels. All three of my teachers – Kathy, Heidi, and Deb – are very dedicated and kind. They prepare the course materials very well. Also, they are very good at teaching using a variety of different methods. Students mostly participate in the classroom discussions very actively. I felt very happy studying there, no pressure.

2) I also highly recommend their teaching methods, which are totally different than the way people normally teach in China. In China, teachers stand in front of the class to teach, and students, who are sitting down, listen or write. The teaching style there was mainly focused on English grammar and writing, with not enough focus on the ability to listen and talk using the language. Here in Fishers library, there are a lot of interactions between the teachers and students. Teachers would give the students topics to prepare a week ahead of time (about 8 to 10 questions), and students would have enough time to go home and prepare what they want to say in the next class. I love the class interactions between teachers and students, the way we are allowed to use the language to express our ideas. It really allowed us to put our skills into use in the real world, which is great!

Family Night for the ENL Conversation Group

3) I also love the different events the class hosts, such as the family night, a walk in the park, and the class chatting group on WhatsApp. This allowed more interactions between teachers and students and more opportunities to use English. I also established new friendships with people. I love that.

4) I greatly appreciate that the class here is totally free. It is a good example of how taxpayers’ money can be used to serve taxpayers. It is one of the reasons why the class has attracted a lot of people over the years.

Overall, I really love the English class in the Fishers library. I will continue to put in my best efforts, and hopefully, I can continue to make progress. Hopefully, one day, I will feel English “likes” me, and I “like” English. Hopefully, one day, I will “get my license” and finally be able to have the freedom to “drive my car” everywhere I want.”

Check out Mr. Xu’s son Shawn’s video about his dad learning English at the library!  The ENL (English as a New Language) Conversation Group meets Wednesdays at Fishers Library and virtually over Zoom. Register to attend on our Events Calendar!

About Shengchu Xu:

Shengchu was born and grew up in Shanghai, China. His last name is “Xu” (pronounced very close to “Shoe”). Many people have trouble to say it, so he just kindly asks people to call him “Mr. Chu.” He moved to Indiana in 1999. He holds an Associate degree in engineering from China, and he worked many years as a mechanical engineer there. After moving to Indiana, he worked in a Chinese restaurant and also at IUPUI as a custodian for quite a few years. He retired recently. In his spare time, he loves working in his backyard garden to plant vegetables, watching sports, traveling, and doing volunteer work in his church.

Have your own library story to share? Tell us about it here, and we’ll pick a few to be featured on our blog! You can also find storytelling resources and tips here

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