In this podcast drawn from the Philadelphia Immigration oral history collection, immigrants to Philadelphia in the early 1900s and the present day share stories about how they learned English and adapted to life in a foreign language, recalling the challenges they faced in their new neighborhoods and the life lessons they learned along the way. We encourage you to walk a mile in their shoes and consider the challenges of learning to speak English in Philadelphia, and in the United States as a whole. We hope that this podcast will raise awareness of the issues new Philadelphians face, one story at a time. Listen below, or wherever you enjoy podcasts. 

In this episode, early 20th and 21st-century immigrants share how they honed language skills in Philly. Some new Philadelphians read English, but can’t speak it. Some speak, but can’t read. Some have absolutely no knowledge of it. Hear some of the many ways these resourceful individuals have refined their English language skills. Gilda Cetrullo recalls how in the 1920s she learned English at the movies. In 1916 Anna Aleski settled into the Polish speaking neighborhood of Port Richmond to help resolve her language challenges. Irina Melekhina learned English in the Soviet Union prior to moving to Northeast Philly in 1994. And Xichuan “Matt” Zhang shares his transition from English student in China to fluent speaker in Philly in the 1990s. Finally, Yan Tai Lau shares her recent experiences at the Literacy Center on Market Street.  Review the transcript.

Scrambling to find the words

In this episode we hear from a variety of Philadelphia Immigrants from the 20th and 21st centuries. Spanning the years, we learn how these immigrants were treated as they persevered to learn English and being their new lives in Philly. David Kaplan challenges the status quo by questioning whether one actually needs to learn English to thrive and live in this diverse community. Esther Davalos shares a memorable story underscoring the importance of pronunciation while speaking English in Philly. Min “Mandy” Wang shares her language fears as she adapts to her new life. Laura Gomez shares her strategies to succeed in her American school. Review the transcript.