We Speak NYC Videos

Although developed for immigrant populations living in New York City, We Speak NYC videos can be adapted to serve all ELLs, as they help English language learners improve their language skills, learn about their rights, and access city services.

Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs
Publication Year
Resource Type
Instructional Material
Product Type

We Speak NYC (formerly We Are New York) is New York City’s English Language Learning program that provides civic-focused instruction through videos, web and print materials, and free community classes. The videos and materials highlight City services and have been used extensively in both formal and informal ESL classrooms as well as for self-study by English Language Learners (ELLs).

The first season of the We Speak NYC videos addresses issues such as education, health, emergency preparedness, and domestic violence. Each of the Season One videos are accompanied by a 36-page full-color workbook containing storyboards and exercises for intermediate learners to practice English at home and in the classroom, a short reader for high beginners to practice reading skills, and multilingual magazines providing in-depth information about City services that are highlighted in the videos.

The second season focuses on workforce development, worker rights, mental health, elder care, social services, early childhood education, and immigration legal help. Season Two videos have closed captioning in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, English, Russian, and Spanish. Users can also download the video's script in order to practice their reading.

An evaluation of the We Speak NYC program reported that immigrants learning English found the videos especially helpful because the production values (e.g., actors speaking clearly and slowly directly into the camera, repetition of key vocabulary, and subtitles) make the content accessible in ways unlike any other English language TV show. Viewers reported that they want to watch the show because they can understand the English; the storyline is filled with topics that are relevant to their everyday lives; and the cast reflects the demographics of the City’s immigrant population.

What the experts say

The videos are a collection of free resources for implementing content-based and contextualized instruction to adult learners who strive to acquire functional English skills to succeed in U.S. urban communities. The professional videos and well-illustrated support materials provide low- to intermediate-level students with very engaging, real-life models for acquiring useful language skills that are common in the personal, community, and professional lives of second-language learners living in urban communities.

All manner of good teaching theory informs this product without explicit attention to one approach or another. Solid pedagogical approaches are infused into the print, visual, and video materials. The resource itself bears evidence of careful analysis of needs and strengths of ELLs, with the added benefit of modeling language learning for anyone in an English-speaking country.

The videos provide an enormous amount of content material, a consistent set of formats and opportunities for learning across topics and numerous opportunities for adaptations beyond the specific context of New York City. Teachers and students will appreciate the accompanying instructional materials, which both prepare learners before and reinforce skills after watching the content. Although developed for immigrant populations living in New York City, the materials can be adapted to serve all ELLs.

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