For the past eight weeks, a group of 15 Brazilian natives have been meeting at the Oak Bluffs Public Library to learn beginners level English language skills. On Wednesday night, a group of friends, family and teachers gathered to celebrate their graduation.

“Being an adult learner is not easy,” said their instructor Polina Wilson to the crowd of graduates. “You have to balance your work schedule, your home schedule and commit to learning for another 90 minutes after a long day.”

Ms. Wilson said that even though it is difficult for the adult learners, most of whom work more than 40 hours a week, to find time to engage in their studies, each of the students was dedicated to learning English and their attendance rate each week was well over 95 per cent. This is the second time a free adult learner course has been offered to beginner level English language students.

Funding for the program, now in its second year, comes from a federal grant written by librarian Nina Ferry and awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences. Partial funding also came from the Friends of Oak Bluffs Public Library. Two more courses will be offered in the spring and fall.

Among the many students to receive a diploma was José Pessoni, who also accepted a diploma for his mother, who could not attend the graduation but passed the course with flying colors. Mr. Pessoni said that he arrived on the Vineyard there years ago with little to no English language skills. He has worked in drywall and construction for the last three years, but said even while living in an English speaking country he found it difficult to learn the language without any base of understanding.

He said that the course was important for building communication skills that can help him continue to learn outside of the class.

“It helps immigrants be able to understand and not be scared because it can be scary when you first arrive,” he said. “I started at zero, but patience is important. Now, after class, I can understand better and talk to people I work with.”

Mr. Pessoni spoke to the Gazette with the help of his daughter, Marina, currently a sophomore at the regional high school. Marina also arrived on the Island with no English language skills, but learned the language rapidly through the English Language Learners program at the school.

Vani Cortez, the sister of Mr. Pessoni, was among the gathered crowd of friends and family. She came to the Vineyard 20 years ago, and also started at the same level as her brother. She said at the time she was working over 80 hours a week and understands the difficulties of beginner students balancing their work and their studies.

She said that similar to Mr. Pessoni, a different English language course gave her the ability to learn English outside of class from her friends and coworkers.

But as for Mr. Pessoni, his goal is clear. He hopes to continue developing his English language skills, both in and outside of the class, and one day become fluent in the language.

“I have been speaking Portuguese since I was a baby,” he said. “But one day I want be able to speak English the same.”

Those interested can learn more, or register for the course, directly at the Oak Bluffs Public Library or through emailing director of the program Nina Ferry at

Corrected from an earlier version which reported the source of the funding for the program as the Friends of the Oak Blulffs Library. The majority of the funding comes from a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences.