World War I: English for Americans in the Making

Classes Operated by the YMCA

The English for foreigner classes that are being operated throughout the division is one phase of a difficult phase of a difficult and strange process of assimilation and fusion of many races of men in a difficult time. Few men quite realize how very near the liberty of Europe lies to the hearts of a considerable part of our army— men drawn from every subject nation of Europe. It is fortunate that the United States has gone on record as standing for the liberation of the peoples of East and Southeast Europe. A surprising number of men from foreign countries have already become loyal, self-sacrificing soldiers in America’s cause, even though they do not yet understand our language.

Our collection, America and World War I: American Military Camp Newspapers, addresses a topic and period that continues to be of the widest interest and importance to scholars, students, and the general public – America in the World War I Era. Camp newspapers make important original source material—much of it written by soldiers for soldiers—readily available for research.

These English classes, the greater part of which are operated by the YMCA, are a sort of a clearinghouse for the foreign men in which the old difficulties and misunderstandings that confuse them can be cleared up. Many came to Camp Sherman with strange conceptions of the draft, the causes of the war, America’s aims in the war, American history, etc. Some felt that they were being oppressed. They did not have the opportunities that American men have to understand why they should have to make great sacrifices. Occasionally an old grievance which they could not get clear of as we Americans are able to, festered under their skins secretly until they came to distrust our institutions. The policy in these cases has been to treat the men with kindness and sympathy and explain the case patiently. The results have always been gratifying.

The Roberts method of instruction used in the classes is practical, simple and direct. Technical grammar, translation and interpretation see eliminated. The words, terms, expressions taught are useful and understandable. The oral use of words is emphasized. In addition, the men are given help and information on a great many necessary subjects, as: writing letters, insurance, allotments, hygiene , names of officers and organizations, reading maps, the meaning of liberty, etc.

At the present time about 1500 men are enrolled in the classes of which there are 45 in camp. The classes meet on an average of three times a week and in most cases the officers in command have seen to it that no military work interferes with these classes. Investigation develops a need for more classes which will be started just as soon as possible.


Collection: America and World War I Part I. American Military Camp Newspapers
Publication: The Camp Sherman News (The Eighty-third Division News)
Date: January 16, 1918

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