Translating the polyglot: Maynard helping immigrants adjust

Meghan Kelly

On a sunny weekday morning upstairs in the Coolidge School building, an elderly Asian man haltingly read from a worksheet while his classmates looked on with interest.

“One thing I like about the United States is freedom and democracy,” said the man, helped along by instructor Dee Bent.

Once the man finished, Bent congratulated him and showed the beginners’ English class how the man had been translating from Chinese characters to English.

“Good job!” said a few of his classmates and the rest clapped for the older man, who beamed.

Being an immigrant isn’t easy. Learning a new language can be difficult, whatever your age, and the culture shock can be isolating and hard to adjust to.

Although the vast majority of Maynard residents speak English, there is a significant percentage of those with less-than-perfect English skills. The U.S. Census report from 2000, the most recent data available, reports 1,102 out of Maynard’s 9,715 residents age 5 or older speak a language other than English.

About 29 percent, or 322 people, say they speak English less than “very well.”

Armed with a mixture of state, federal and private resources, Maynard is helping new immigrants’ lives get a little easier as they acclimate to the United States.