Guide to the United States

from the 1916 book of the same name by John Foster Carr

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A Free Public Evening School--Teaching English to Adult Foreigners--Men and Women of Many Nations.


English is absolutely indispensable to the workman. He needs it in order to find work. He needs it to take directions and have his work explained. He needs it unless he is willing to work for the smallest wages with no hope of increase. He needs it when he is in difficulties to avoid interested helpers. He needs it to protect himself without requiring the help of the law. He needs it to understand words of warning and keep out of danger, for every year hundreds of immigrants are hurt or killed in America, because they do not understand the shouts of warning, or do not know how to read danger signals, when a few English words might have saved their lives. You cannot be in America a single day without understanding the necessity of speaking the same language that all other men in America speak.

Patience and perseverance will enable you to make rapid progress in this strange tongue that seems so difficult, and when you can do without an interpreter, and do not have to depend upon children to explain your wants, you will be like a dumb man who has suddenly had the gift of speech. You will then be on a level of equality with the native. You will have at your command every advantage that the country offers. The trade schools will offer you great help for your advancement. You can earn a higher salary, and a new world will be opened to your ambition. So that English means much more than ability to communicate with others. It is the door to American life and citizenship. And just because America is a land of immigrants, and because our future depends upon the immigrants, it is the duty of our newcomers to learn English rapidly as a preparation for intelligent citizenship.

How You Can Learn English Quickly:-There is a better way than wearying yourself with a grammar and dictionary. Learn to speak it in the natural way, as a small child learns to speak any language--by the ear. Listen carefully to English whenever you hear it spoken. Pay attention to the sounds that you hear; and so, though at first they will be meaningless to you, after a few days you will find that you are learning a great many English words.

The eye can be of use too. The English letters that you do not know are soon learned. The signs on store windows and offices, on wagons and posters, will all help to identify strange words to you. Buy one of the cheap illustrated American papers every night (they cost so little, one cent a copy) and try to study out the news. After you have made a little progress, buy the weekly papers that are illustrated. Buy a ten-cent magazine and study it.

Do not be afraid to ask questions, even if you have to use gestures to make yourself understood. The one English phrase: "What do you call this?" will enable you to become your own teacher. Ask the names of the simple things of our daily life, the parts of your body, of the different articles of clothing, of food, the names of familiar objects in the house, the street, and the shop. Go to American theatres, and later to lectures in English. Do not be afraid to use the words that you have learned, no matter how imperfectly you pronounce them. English has a few sounds that will be new to you, and words are not always pronounced as they are spelled. But you will soon make progress. Before many days you will be able to make yourself understood in most matters, although you may not speak very good English. Practice what you know patiently and industriously. Do not be discouraged.

The best help you can get will be from those who speak English. Make friends with Americans. If possible, for the first six months go and live among Americans. Find a home with an Americanized Jewish family, if you can; for this will do much more for you than give you the chance of learning English. You will be learning many important things about the United States, as well as the customs and ways of American family life, and you will be learning to understand the ideas and ideals of our Republic.

If you have a family, avoid the congested parts of the city. Make a home in the suburbs, where you will not only learn English more rapidly, but will find better and cheaper rooms, and more healthful surroundings.

In spite of what others can do for you, you will be your own best teacher. You will find that without much effort you can learn fifteen or twenty words in a day. This will soon give you a working, helpful knowledge of English. For when you have accumulated a vocabulary of four hundred words, that you can use easily, you will begin to feel at home in America.

Then go, if you can, to an American night school.

Its instruction is not all you need. It is only open seven months of the year. And you will be tired after your day's work; and like very many there you will often be tempted to give up the night school. But again, I say, patience and courage!








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