Learning English

COVID-19 Update: While we have postponed our in-person ESL Conversation Groups, Classes, and Small Group Tutoring, there are plenty of options to learn English online from home! For any questions, please call us at 617-859-2323 or email literacyservices@bpl.org

For students currently residing in Massachusetts, the library is offering the following classes. Please register by calling 617-859-2446 or emailing literacyservices@bpl.org. See all ESL and Conversation group listings on our calendar.

  • Beginner English (for Spanish speakers)
  • Intermediate level 
  • Advanced level 
  • Reading class
  • Conversation group 

For more language resources, view our literacy resources guide and language learning online resources.

On this page:

Literacy Services Mission Statement

Our mission is to support the basic educational needs of adults by imparting the skills and knowledge that will not only prepare them to reach their personal and professional goals, but assist them with creating their own opportunities. In addition, we hope to help each individual develop confidence in themselves and engage critically with the world around them.

The Literacy Services Department provides resources and programs that are designed to serve the needs of the adult literacy and ESL populations in and around Boston. Regular programs include traditional ESL classes, ESL Conversation Groups, HiSET/GED Preparation Classes, and one-on-one tutoring.

ESL Classes and ESL Conversation Groups

  • ESL Classes—The Boston Public Library offers ESL instruction in a traditional classroom environment. Classes range from beginner – for people with little or no experience with English – to high-intermediate. Classes are free; however, registration is required. For more information and to register please call 617-859-2446 or email mtheroux@bpl.org.
  • ESL Conversation Groups—Practice speaking English in an informal and friendly group setting with other ESL students and new English speakers. Groups are led by a native English speaker.

Small Group Tutoring

Our Small Group Tutoring program offers English-as-a-Second Language (ESL).  ESL groups are composed of 2-4 participants and one native-English speaking tutor.  Participants have the chance to work on improving their conversational skills, as well as reading and writing. For more information and to register please call 617-859-2446 or email mtheroux@bpl.org.


Boston and the surrounding communities have several excellent community-based organizations that offer ESL and ABE (Adult Basic Education) classes and programs. The following websites provide listings of programs based upon needs and locations:

Learn Online

Our online learning programs are ready whenever you want to study.

  • LearningExpress Library—Log on and practice for SAT, GED, TOEFL and other education tests. LearningExpress Library is interactive and is based on official tests that will help you improve your scores on academic, civil service, military, and professional licensing and certification exams. It provides immediate scoring, complete answer explanations, and individualized analysis of your score. All you need is your BPL card or eCard number.
  • Mango Languages—Mango Languages is a great online language learning program for both English and Foreign Languages.  For the English learning component, users can select their native language as the language through which they learn English.


The Literacy Services Department offers several opportunities for volunteers to work with either adult English-as-a-Second- Language (ESL) learners or adults who are in need of developing basic reading and writing skills towards their individual life goals.  For example, some volunteers may work with a small group of 2-4 ESL learners or facilitate a large drop-in group of 5 – 25 people who are looking to improve their conversational English.  Other volunteers may work with an individual helping him or her to improve basic literacy skills for employment or for tests such as the HiSet. For more information please call 617-859-2446 or email mtheroux@bpl.org.

Literacy Resources

Research Guide: Literacy Resources for Adult ESL and ABE Educators

Research Guide: Literacy Resources for ABE and ESL Learners, opens a new window

Research Guide: Citizenship and Immigration, Immigrant Information Corners, opens a new window

If you have questions or suggestions, please contact mtheroux@bpl.org

Print this page