Across the focus groups, participants also shared personal stories of help they received from others while navigating different situations and settings in which they faced language barriers.

“Medical words used at hospitals are too difficult and unfamiliar. It’s so nice to be able to talk about my symptoms freely when I see second-generation Korean doctors who can speak Korean even a little bit.”

–Immigrant woman of Korean origin in early 40s

“Language was indeed a great obstacle when I first came. I was living largely in Brooklyn in the beginning … there were many other Chinese people around. If there was any problem, I could always find someone to ask, so it was easier.”

–Immigrant man of Chinese origin in mid-50s

“I got in a car accident. … I didn’t know English … I didn’t know how to call the insurance … until I found a Cambodian person who knew English and helped me call.”

–Immigrant woman of Cambodian origin in mid-40s

“Yes, I had knowledge [of English] but we were not used to speaking it. My instruction for education was in English, but we were not using it for conversation with each other. We talk with our friends and family members in Hindi in India. … [My boss] taught me many things. I used to make a list of 10 things every day that I had learned from my boss. He was living here for so many years.”

–Immigrant woman of Indian origin in early 50s

Other participants described the support they received while learning or improving their English after arriving in the country.

“After we came, we participated in a lot of the English learning classes sponsored by the U.S. government.”

–Immigrant man of Chinese origin in late 50s

“I really admired and appreciated [ESL] teachers … because they knew we were refugees, and that English was our second language. … The teacher tried to help us.”

–Immigrant woman of Cambodian origin in mid-40s

“My husband taught me [English] because I couldn’t speak English. It was so hard. When I got a call, I didn’t pick up. My husband kept teaching me. … In New York, [Koreans] need an interpreter when they have a car accident or get a checkup at a hospital. So now that’s what I’m doing.”

–Immigrant woman of Korean origin in early 50s

“I used to search in Google for places where free [English] language courses were provided. The first was Columbia University and the next was a church that was providing free language classes to immigrants on the basis of a lottery system.”

–Immigrant man of Nepalese origin in late 30s

When asked how he improved his English fluency and accent, an Indian man mentioned how he leaned to practice on other international students in his college:

“I knew that if I wanted to do better, I had to step out of my comfort zone … I got an on-campus job. Many people from other countries were working on-campus jobs, so I received a lot of help [with my accent] from them.”

–Immigrant man of Indian origin in early 30s