Who are we?

Chinatown ESL is program that runs throughout the year, providing English classes for native Chinese speakers. We are part of the Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA), a service organization affiliated with Harvard College. We have 5 levels of courses, ranging from the Level 1, taught entirely in Chinese, to Level 5, taught entirely in English. We run on Saturdays and Sundays, from 11am-1pm, at the Vanserg Building on Harvard's campus. Our classes are free to attend, and there is no registration process. Every level has a textbook and a CD, we sell textbooks for $6 each, and sell CDs for $2.

Level Descriptions

Level 1

Level 1 is a beginner class and is taught entirely in Chinese. The class is for students who have very little or no prior experience learning English. This class starts with the alphabet and covers the 20 most common English verbs, along with basic grammar and dialogue.

Level 2

Level 2 is for students with basic English ability and is taught mostly in Chinese. The class focuses on basic grammar, including verb conjugations (past/present/future), usage of adjectives and adverbs, and asking questions. The class also improves students’ vocabulary and dialogue in the context of daily situations.

Level 3

Level 3 is for students who have a stronger background in English and is taught with a mix of Chinese and English. This class teaches more complicated grammar, such as comparative and superlative adjectives, and present/past/future continuous tense (am going, was going, will be going). The class also includes more advanced vocabulary and dialogue in the context of daily situations.

Level 4

Level 4 is for students with substantial experience with English and is taught mostly in English. This class focuses heavily on conversational skills, reinforcing and expanding previously-learned grammatical structures and vocabulary in the context of daily situations.

Level 5

Level 5 is for students with advanced English ability, and is taught completely in English. This class focuses on conversational English, and each lesson involves reading complicated passages and dialogues that give exposure to aspects of American culture. Readings are often at the level of newspaper articles, expanding students’ vocabulary and conversational skills.


Intensive covers Levels 1-3 and meets Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for 8 weeks. Not currently being offered.

Our Fall 2016 Schedule

Saturday and Sunday classes teach the same material!

  • Lesson 1 - Saturday 09/17, Sunday 09/18
  • Lesson 2 - Saturday 09/24, Sunday 09/25
  • Lesson 3 - Saturday 10/01, Sunday 10/02
  • No Class Columbus Day Weekend!
  • Lesson 4 - Saturday 10/15, Sunday 10/16
  • Lesson 5 - Saturday 10/22, Sunday 10/23
  • Lesson 6 - Saturday 10/29, Sunday 10/30
  • Lesson 7 - Saturday 11/05, Sunday 11/06
  • Lesson 8 - Saturday 11/12, Sunday 11/13


We are located at Vanserg building, at 25 Francis Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts. From the Harvard station on the Red line, walk north to get to the intersection of Kirkland Street and Divinity Avenue. Continue north down Divinity Avenue, until you see a building with stone lion statues. There is a pathway next to these statues, which you can follow to get to Vanserg.

Interested? Leave your email for updates on when classes are starting.