One of the best kept secrets in San Diego is the free classes offered at San Diego Continuing Education. Under the umbrella of the San Diego Community College District, Continuing Education has six centers around town, including Cesar Chavez, ECC, Mid-City, CE Mesa, Miramar, and West City.

The largest English as a Second Language program in San Diego is offered at all the centers. Classes start at level 1, and some schools have beginning classes for both literate and non-literate students. The levels continue until level 7 which is the highest level.

Some of the ESL level 7 classes are Transition to College ESL courses in which students prepare to be successful in college. They learn about the college system in California and focus on improving their writing and oral presentation skills.

All the ESL classes teach the students the various aspects of learning a language, including reading, writing, listening and speaking as well as grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. Moreover, there are some specialized classes that reinforce certain subjects, such as grammar, writing or conversation. There are computer classes where ESL students can practice using specialized software.

There are morning, afternoon and evening classes to accommodate the students’ schedules. There is no limit to the amount of classes a student can take.

There are also vocational ESL classes or VESL classes. These classes are offered to help second language learners prepare for jobs or job training. There are several types of VESL classes.
The general VESL classes focus on English for the workplace, job applications, and job interviews during the first half of the class. The second half of class focuses on curriculum in specific careers, and students study individually on these modules.

Two special types of classes are offered in which the students get practical training at the same time they practice their English skills. In the Personal Care Assistant class, a nurse and an ESL teacher teach the class together, which speeds up the training for the student. There is another class like this in the Automotive Technician program.

The various centers also have citizenship classes for those who are preparing to become American citizens. The citizenship classes focus on exactly what is required to pass the naturalization interview – the 100 questions, the N-400 application, and the reading and writing portions of the exam.

Practice interviews are also part of the class curriculum. Classes are offered in the mornings, evenings and on Friday night and Saturday morning at some locations. There is also an online course in which students only have to come to class once a week and then practice online with the instructor.

Finally, Continuing Education has a wide variety of classes for native speakers. There are 11 different programs, including GED/high school diploma/basic skills classes, food and nutrition classes, fashion/sewing classes, business, computer and information classes, emeritus classes for people over 55, and job training and certificate classes to name a few. These classes can be taken to help find jobs or just enhance one’s general knowledge.

Classes begin on Tuesday, September 6th for Fall 2016.

For more information, the website is

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Miriam [Mimi] Pollack was born in Chicago, but moved to Mexico City when she was five years old. She lived and worked in Mexico for over 20 years. She currently resides in San Diego and worked as an ESL instructor at Grossmont College and San Diego Community College Continuing Education until June 2018. She writes for various local publications.