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Press Release

Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs Announce Launch of We Speak NYC with New Season of English Language Learning Programs

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Previously known as We Are New York, We Speak NYC Builds on Emmy Award-Winning Educational Videos with Seven New Episodes

New Independent Evaluation of We Speak NYC Shows Learners Achieving Increased English Proficiency and Familiarity with City Services

QUEENS, NEW YORK—Today, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs announced the new season of We Speak NYC, the City’s Emmy Award-winning free English language learning program helping immigrant New Yorkers build language skills and become more familiar with City services. The de Blasio Administration invested over $3 million in the launch of new videos and learning tools for We Speak NYC’s second season, previously known as the We Are New York program. This season will tackle important issues facing New Yorkers, including mental health, workers’ rights, and early childhood education.

MOIA also released a new independent evaluation of We Speak NYC, which demonstrates that the program is effectively offering instruction to English language learners, not only on improving their English proficiency but also helping them to navigate the City’s resources and opportunities. Providing New Yorkers learning English with more educational and civic tools for success is part of the City’s continued drive to make New York City the fairest big city in the country.

“Effective English learning programs like We Speak NYC open new doors for New Yorkers,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Though we are a city that proudly speaks over 150 languages, many residents want to improve their English language skills, and we want to meet them with the tools to do it. Empowering immigrant communities with the skills and knowledge to take advantage of more opportunities is how we make the ultimate city of immigrants an even better place for all of our residents.”

“Providing educational resources for all New Yorkers, at all stages of life, opens more opportunity across our city,” said Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives Phil Thompson. “We Speak NYC builds on the City’s strong track record of delivering proven curriculum to English language learners with new episodes, innovative study materials, and more. With We Speak NYC, the City is bringing New Yorkers with limited English proficiency more tools for success. ”

“We Speak NYC is here to support our city’s community of English language learners. Creating high-quality episodes focused on issues critical to immigrant New Yorkers, like mental health and early childhood education, for independent study or classes facilitated by trained volunteers makes language learning more approachable,” said Commissioner Bitta Mostofi of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “Many We Speak NYC facilitators are graduates of the program, creating leadership opportunities within immigrant communities and helping spread the word about important City programs available to all New Yorkers. Our new independent evaluation is evidence of We Speak NYC’s effectiveness, showing that 85 percent of students obtained a stronger vocabulary after only 20 hours of instruction. The new season will help us reach even more English language learners on their journey, both through new classes and by bringing We Speak NYC into the homes of more New Yorkers.”

“Language accommodation combined with English language learning tools are key to accessing City services, advancing in education, and securing good employment. I welcome the newly expanded We Speak NYC program that builds language skills and opens pathways to City resources,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Chair of the New York City Council Committee on Immigration. “As Chair of the New York City Council Committee on Immigration, I’ve witnessed the positive impact of programs like We Speak NYC for my own constituents and throughout the City. I thank Mayor de Blasio and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs for their unwavering commitment to immigrant communities and for expanding innovative outreach and educational programs.”

“ThriveNYC is committed to creating a mental health care system that works for all New Yorkers,” said ThriveNYC Executive Director Alexis Confer. “We Speak NYC helps us keep that commitment by connecting English language learners in New York with mental health resources. We are excited to be part of this effort.”

“As a former ELL and the grandson of immigrants, I know firsthand how important language supports for English language learners can be when families are navigating critical City resources such as information on early childhood education,” said Department of Education Chancellor Richard A. Carranza. “Through programs like We Speak NYC, we’re ensuring that all families, regardless of immigration status, know they are welcome in our schools and across the city.”

“Providing a program to improve English proficiency for immigrants helps build stronger connections in the communities in which we all live while increasing access to essential benefits and services for those who need them,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “The We Speak NYC program results in a fairer and more vibrant City for us all.”

“We are proud to partner with our sister agency to support the We Speak NYC program, which has helped so many immigrant New Yorkers improve their English proficiency and become more familiar with City services,” said Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “As part of this initiative, our Office of Labor Policy & Standards has developed an episode to educate workers about sick leave – regardless of their immigration status, or what language they speak. We look forward to our continued partnership with We Speak NYC to better serve immigrant New Yorkers and create thriving communities across the city.”

“Nearly 40 percent of New Yorkers are foreign-born – and the City has one of the largest immigrant senior populations in the country. This makes educational videos like the ones produced by MOIA all the more relevant. New Yorkers should feel confident and secure in their ability to access supportive services, regardless of immigration status or language barriers,” said Department for the Aging Commissioner Donna Corrado.

MOIA invited partners in City government, English language learning experts, practitioners, and advocates for a screening of one of the new episodes at the Museum of the Moving Image Wednesday evening.

We Speak NYC is an innovative tool in addressing the need for English language literacy programming in New York City. Nearly 2 million New Yorkers have limited English proficiency (LEP), including approximately 1.5 million immigrant New Yorkers. The City has committed $30 million in funding for adult literacy programs this fiscal year, which includes English language learning, and City, State, and federal funding for adult literacy programs totals $90 million in New York City.

We Speak NYC’s unique model works with trained volunteer facilitators to lead a semester of classes at libraries, public schools, and community organizations across the five boroughs. This community learning framework aids English language learners (ELLs) to build issue-focused vocabulary, practice conversational English, and access City services. Last year alone, We Speak NYC trained 249 new volunteer facilitators, organized 182 classes, and engaged 3,500 ELLs. We Speak NYC videos and learning materials are a resource for the literacy field broadly, used in classrooms beyond those hosted by We Speak NYC facilitators. Our partnerships with libraries, community and faith-based organizations, and schools enable the City to reach many more English language learners. Additional partners include the Revson Foundation, JPB Foundation, City University of New York, Brooklyn Public Library, New York Public Library, and Queens Library.

This new investment will build on the We Are New York program’s successes, helping more immigrant New Yorkers gain confidence in their English language skills and ability to access City resources. With closed captioning in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, English, Russian, and Spanish, the seven new episodes and a collection of new study materials will be available online through We Speak NYC’s new website later this month. These new materials will coincide with a new promotional campaign to educate New Yorkers about these resources. The full collection of study materials will be available through the We Speak NYC’s website in time for classes in the fall.

Alongside We Speak NYC’s second season launch, MOIA is also releasing the program’s independent evaluation, produced by ICF Macro, showing the value this program offers to ELL New Yorkers. After attending We Speak NYC classes, ELL New Yorkers reported increased ability to have a conversation, a better understanding of spoken English, heightened confidence in speaking English, and a greater level of English vocabulary. After participating in a full semester of classes, 85 percent of We Speak NYC students reported understanding more important vocabulary after the 10 sessions. With the We Speak NYC curriculum, learners also became more familiar and comfortable with seeking out City services. We Speak NYC’s model increases the program’s flexibility and reach across the city —utilizing high-quality videos featuring New York City actors and filmed in NYC, training volunteer facilitators to lead classes, and partnering with community organizations serving immigrant New Yorkers. We Speak NYC’s expansion with seven new videos will allow the program to reach even more New Yorkers. The full evaluation is available here.

“This new season of We Speak NYC will help immigrant New Yorkers build upon their English language skills,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm, Chair of the New York City Council Committee on Finance. “I am particularly glad that We Speak NYC familiarizes English language learners with the many important City services available to them. NYC needs more quality adult literacy programming, and I thank MOIA for taking action to address this need.”

“The City University of New York has been a gateway to the American Dream for generations of immigrants. CUNY’s success as an engine of economic mobility derives in large part from immigrants who bring the world to our city, strengthen our communities, and enrich CUNY as an institution. We are proud that the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs turned to CUNY for its expertise and leadership in immigrant education for the creation of the new ESL/civics series, We Speak NYC,” said Vita Rabinowitz, Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost of the City University of New York.

“We Speak NYC is just the kind of bold, innovative idea we have come to expect from Mayor de Blasio and his Administration,” said Anthony Tassi, Chief Executive Officer of Literacy Partners. Literacy Partners was thrilled to work with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, CUNY, and Jay Street Films to conceive of this ambitious project and bring it to life.  Immigrants from every corner of the world speaking hundreds of different languages have come here to make New York what it is.  Their lives count and their stories matter.”