Ask a Librarian

ESL & World Languages

Ithaca Journal, The (NY) - Saturday, April 11, 2009
Author: Sarah O'Shea

Both adult and youth services provide foreign language material

Question: Do you have any books or other items that would help me to learn English? I would like very basic information. I am only starting to learn.

Answer: I encountered this question while working in the Youth Services department here at TCPL. The patron was an older man, actually a Tibetan monk, who was only beginning to learn the basics of the English language. He struggled to ask this question, in fact. There were several resources that came to mind.

We have wonderful World Languages collections in both our Adult Services department as well as Youth Services. These are often familiar titles, only they are written in languages from all over the world, including Spanish, Greek, Russian, and even Tibetan — some are bilingual, having text in both English and the other language. These items are often useful for ESL students, adult and child, alike. Similarly, in Youth Services we also have picture dictionaries in many languages that can aid in ESL learning.

In this particular case, I directed this patron to a DVD collection we have in Youth Services, Sesame English: ESL for Children. This collection introduces conversational English — basic expressions, vocabulary, and sentence structures using familiar Sesame Street characters. The series includes titles such as Food and Eating, Family and Home, and Weather, Seasons, and Time. Although this resource is aimed for children preschool through grade 4, these kinds of resources are often exactly what a beginning adult ESL student needs.

So, although we are in the "Kids' Section", adults are welcome, whether they are looking for picture books for images to use in art projects, needing basic information when learning a new subject, or ESL students. We are happy to direct them to the resources that meet their needs.

Today's question was answered by Sarah O'Shea, a reference librarian in the Youth Services Department of the Tompkins County Public Library. Send your questions by e-mail to, or call 272-4557 or visit the library at 101 E. Green St.

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