Marge Robinson has been helping people in Lehigh Acres since 2007 to learn to speak English and is one of a few who can claim such service for a long period of time. Some others include Mary Slavic and Mary Smiley and others.
Now that the New Year has arrived, Robinson and others, all members of Tutors for Lehigh, would like to encourage the Spanish-speaking community to sign up to learn to speak English.
It's free and she wants the word to get out.
"We have several tutors and we are always looking for more," said Robinson, a former teacher from Ohio. She and her husband have been living in Lehigh now for several years.
"But you do not have to be a teacher to be a tutor to teach others to speak English. Anyone can do it. We have a training session for tutors and we work with a program that works well.
"The tutor speaks English with the aid of a book, published for the sole purpose of teaching others to speak English, and like I said, anyone can do it. No teaching background is required. All you need is a desire to help others learn our native language," Robinson said.
She and her husband live in southwest Lehigh and in addition to being a tutor for the Literacy For Lehigh group, which developed from the former Lehigh Literacy County, Robinson also teaches people to learn English on Wednesday nights at her Lee Boulevard Baptist Church at 3107 Lee Blvd.
With the increased population of Lehigh and using numbers from the last census and further information that updates the population figures in Lehigh, the community of 100,000 plus is believed to have about 34 percent of Spanish-speaking people and in the minds of many, the community is becoming two communities separated by a barrier wall due to communications.
"Oh I believe it will take years for the Spanish speaking people to assimilate into our English speaking culture; yet there may be some who will never learn English and continue to speak their native language.
"But it is difficult for their children who attend school here and who are learning English. When they go home and if their parents are not learning to speak English and using it with their children, it slows down the language development of the children," she said.
"I can't speak Spanish but I and the other tutors are well acquainted with the ways to teach others to learn our native language and it is easy; like I said, a volunteer tutor does not need to have any teaching experience, just a desire to help someone in our community to learn to speak English," Robinson said.
But how do you get the word out to the Spanish-speaking community in Lehigh that there is a way to learn and a place to go if they cannot read local newspapers about such help programs?
The group in the past has used flyers posted around town. One side promotes and advertises the free classes in Spanish and the other side is in English.
And Robinson hopes those people who are bilingual will help spread the message to people who can't speak English that there is a program in Lehigh and it doesn't cost anything, except their time.
"There are many systems for tutors to use and I have used a few others, but we are using what is called the Laubauch System. It is simple and easy to use and it works," Robinson said.
At her church, she has even offered group sessions.
Robinson and other tutors for Literacy For Lehigh, which took its new name in January of 2013, usually meets at Lehigh Community Services at 201 Plaza Drive, Suite 3. The telephone number is 369-5818.
Those interested in signing up to learn English must call Community Services or stop by their office and apply. Both women at the desk are bilingual and are able to guide Speaking-speaking people through the ropes of getting signed up with a particular tutor.
Robinson noted, too, that others who cannot speak English - such as those who speak German or other languages - may also apply. In years past, Robinson said there were a lot of people from Germany who wanted to learn to speak English and many did and are doing fine today with the English language.
Robinson laughed when asked why she decided to become a tutor and she said that when she and her husband moved to Lehigh, all of their neighbors spoke English and whenever a new family moved into the neighborhood, she often baked cookies and took them over to welcome them to the community.
Since then, with the community changing due to immigration, many now are moving to Lehigh who can't speak English. She said she had taken some cookies to a new neighbor, a gentleman, and when he opened the door, he could not understand what she was saying. So he called a couple of the painters to the front door and Robinson said only one of them could speak English. He took the message and translated it to the new neighboring informing him that he was being welcomed to the community and the cookies were a gift.
There are several good reason to learn English, Robinson noted. They include such areas as being able to get a job, dealing with law enforcement if stopped by a deputy, being able to discuss information with a child's teacher, how to speak and shop in grocery stores, talking to postal officials at the post office, being able to talk to your doctor, being able to speak to a pharmacist or a clerk in a pharmacy about your medications, and being able to become an American citizen so one can understand the questions required on a test.
Robinson said she has some students have continued with their training for four years.
"They really want to be able to community easily using the English language," she said.
Robinson hopes residents of Lehigh who known Spanish-speaking people will try to get them to apply for the free lessons.
"They are fun and we can assure those people that they will be able to speak English, if they study and give it enough time," Robinson noted.