FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Learning English as a second language can be difficult, as well as time consuming and costly, for many people.

But with a new pilot program about to begin, people who want to improve their English can do so without leaving the post.

For the first time, an English as a Second Language course is being offered on Fort Jackson. The class is designed for foreign-born spouses, but is open to anyone needing English language instruction.

"We have a lot of foreign-born spouses who relocate here to Fort Jackson," said Miranda Broadus, relocation program manager for Fort Jackson's Army Community Service.

"We're providing a service for those spouses that before, they had to go off post to receive."

Typically, Fort Jackson family members had to take ESL courses at a local college or high school and pay for it out of their own pockets.

Fort Jackson's new ESL program will be free to participants and all instructional materials will be provided, Broadus said. Child care will also be provided for free.

The first ESL course will be limited to 10 people and begins Dec. 8. Classes will be held every Tuesday for two to three months, depending on the progress of the students.

If the program proves successful and there is a high demand for more classes, Broadus said it could be expanded.

"We anticipate there being a very high demand for an ESL course here at Fort Jackson," Broadus said.

Clayton Leishman, a certified ESL instructor at the Defense Language Institute, will be one of the program's teachers. He said the pilot program will be a "nonintensive" course intended for beginners.

"It's going to cover the basics," Leishman said. "It will focus on reading and speaking English. We're trying to develop the daily communication ability."

Leishman said it is important that foreign-born spouses learn English so that they can take part not only in the Fort Jackson community, but the Columbia community as well.

"Language is what unifies a community, but it can also divide a community," he said. "We can provide people with the opportunity to have access to the larger community outside Fort Jackson."

For information about the program, or to volunteer as an instructor, call Broadus at 751-1124/5256. She can also be reached by email at Miranda.Broadu