Here's How to Access Free ESOL Classes at Columbia Through Community Impact

Throughout the year, Community Impact hosts free 12-week classes in English for speakers of other languages.

Kelly Moffitt-Hawasly
June 09, 2023

Of the hundreds of community programs and resources listed on the Neighbors website, from the A'Lelia Bundles Community Scholars to the Double Discovery Center, the most commonly searched program is for "English courses." And, indeed, that is a resource available at Columbia. 

Community Impact, the University's largest student service organization, which got its start in 1981, offers free English classes for adult immigrants who live in the New York City area. 

Each year, Community Impact offers three free 12-week cycles of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses across six levels from beginning to advanced literacy. There are also conversation courses offered for higher levels of the program. 

A couple of important things to know:

  • Courses are offered in the fall (September through December), Spring (January through May), and Summer (June through August)
  • You must be 18 years or older and live in New York City to enroll
  • Classes are free, but students are expected to buy the textbook

We recently spoke with Natalia Holder-De Bique, the lead program coordinator for ESOL at Community Impact, about the program. 

"What lights me up about the program is helping others assimilate into our culture," Holder-De Bique said. "Leaving one’s home country is hard enough as it is. Adding the difficulty of not understanding the language or culture of a new place for adults can hinder growth and happiness. Knowing that I’m a part of the solution that helps make their transition easier in such a way lights me up."

Where do classes take place?

Classes take place at the following locations:

What is the average class size and who teaches the classes?

The class size is usually 15-25 people. Volunteers teach the classes. 

What days and times do the classes normally take place?

You must be able to attend classes four days a week, Monday through Thursday, for 12 weeks. They take place during the following times:

  • 10 am to 12 pm
  • 12 pm to 2 pm
  • 6 pm to 8 pm

If someone is interested in participating in the program, how do they express interest/sign up?

Walk-in, call, or sign up on the website. You can also email [email protected].

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