MOULTRIE -- When immigrants come to America, most are faced with having to learn a whole new culture and an entirely new language. Those in the Moultrie area can learn about both completely free of charge.

Moultrie Technical College started a English as a Second Language (ESL) program at its Industrial Drive campus in February 2003. Students who attend the class take part in the only intensive ESL program in Georgia outside of the city of Atlanta.

Instructor Danielle Buehrer said 45 students from Latin America are currently taking the ESL class. The class and materials are available free of charge and can be taken in the morning or at night.

Students do not need to have a Social Security number, Buehrer and immigration status is not a requirement, but she asks that anyone who wants to learn English be serious about it.

Students begin learning English by being taught about phonics, then Buehrer said they go up to learning English grammar and into conversation. The class is given homework to read John Grisham novels, which are considered to be a good reflection of American culture.

Students who are enrolled in the class gave various reasons for wanting to learn English, but everyone stated they wanted to learn the language to better themselves. Beatriz Madrid said she needs to learn English in order to help her child with his schoolwork. She is one of the ESL students who is in dual enrollment, participating in the ESL classes and Moultrie Tech's Adult Literacy program.

Mailyn Perez said she started taking the classes because learning and speaking English is the only way to take advantage of the opportunities in the United States. She began learning English by listening to the radio, watching television and speaking with co-workers since coming to America from Cuba three years ago.

She started taking the ESL classes six months ago, and Perez said she has gone from knowing no English to being able to understand her child's teachers. She is also working with the Colquitt County Extension Service as a coordinator and encourages fellow Hispanics to attend classes such as the ESL class at Moultrie Tech.

Being a part of a class such as the ESL class is the best way to learn another language, Perez said.

In addition to the ESL classes, Buehrer said the students are part of a "Lunch and Learn" program taught through the Ellenton Clinic in Ellenton. The students learn about several things including food safety and the proper use of child safety seats.

The students have also taken classes through Colquitt Regional Medical Center, and Buehrer said all the students are first aid- and CPR-certified.

Madrid said the class is excellent and recommends the class to everyone, and she said Buehrer is an excellent teacher who helps provide resources and is very helpful. She has been able to learn a lot about the language and the culture because of the ESL class.

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