About Us

We are the Asian Language Exchange & Social Network (ALESN – pronounced “Allison”), a volunteer-run program that is focused on teaching Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) and other Asian languages. ALESN currently has over 20 volunteers and hundreds of active participants coming together from diverse backgrounds to learn and help spread our love for Asian languages and cultures.
We offer free language classes. Yup, you heard that right! Currently, we teach Cantonese, Mandarin, and Chinese reading and writing classes all for the total cost of zero dollars! Occasionally, we are also fortunate enough to have volunteers conduct Toishanese, Korean, Vietnamese, or Japanese workshops for our program. And we regularly do dance, self-defense, and fencing classes as well.

Our workshops also offer super cool opportunities learn about Chinese calligraphy, origami, yoga, Tai Chi, Jeet Kune Do, Filipino martial arts, and lots of other interesting things!

We also organize regular social events for networking, developing long-lasting friendships, and learning more about Asian cultures. Past social events that have been wildly successful include our Korean dinner, trip to Mitsuwa (an amazing Japanese mall), picnics in Central Park, karaoke marathons, dim sum outings, and more!

We’re located in the heart of Chinatown, Manhattan in New York City!

Come visit us during our program hours at Middle School 131, at 100 Hester Street Between Eldridge St. and Forsyth St. We are easily accessible by public transportation. Just take the B and the D to Grand Street, the N, R, J, M, Z or 6 lines to Canal Street and we’re minutes away.

We love language and we love teaching it. In fact, we want you to be able to:
Confidently communicate with your parents, grandparents, girlfriends, boyfriends, in-laws, etc.
Travel to Asia and be able to ask for directions and buy yourself some lunch
Walk through Chinatown and be able to read all of the street signs
Pick up an Asian movie or soap opera series and enjoy it in its undubbed form (English subtitles optional!)
Enjoy learning a new language and show it off to friends and strangers
By providing essential educational resources in a supportive learning and social environment, ALESN’s mission is to promote language and cultural appreciation, community bonding, and the spirit of volunteerism.
ALESN is 100% supported through the donations of our students and the generous time committed by its volunteers. As with any volunteer organization, we need your continuing support! Please consider donating or volunteering today!
Believe it or not, there really isn’t a catch. But we do hope that by running our program and providing these classes and services absolutely free of charge we will inspire students to volunteer and give back to the program and/or seek external volunteer opportunities to complete a cyclic giving-back to the program and community.

Convinced that our program may just be what you were looking for? Please email our Program Coordinator, Tony Parisi, for more information on joining our program: ajp807@aol.com. Or if you prefer, you can even call him at 917-767-7194. For more information, join our email list and save our website address for future updates! Our website is alesn.org

In January of 2010, ALESN was established in response to the diminishing and lack of Cantonese language classes in New York City. Dedicated to preserving the Cantonese language and cultural heritage, ALESN co-founders, Kam and Tony, successfully initiated its first series of free beginner Cantonese classes during weeknights and attracted a wide range of students both of Chinese descent and non-Asian descent. Soon, ALESN recruited additional language instructors and expanded its classes to include Chinese reading and writing, as well as different levels of Cantonese and Mandarin. By March of 2010, ALESN had reached a solid volunteer team of 15 volunteers consisting of language instructors, workshop leaders, advisory board members, administrative assistants, and more. In May of 2010, ALESN ran its first trial of a Korean language workshop drawing in language enthusiasts beyond the scope of the Chinese language. Today ALESN teaches hundreds of wonderful classes a year in all sorts of disciplines.

In addition to running a multi-leveled language program, ALESN wishes to also promote cultural appreciation and community bonding by exposing students to Asian culture and providing opportunities for students to meet friends to practice their language skills. Hence, ALESN runs several specialty workshops every month ranging from origami and Chinese calligraphy to Filipino martial arts and Tai Chi. ALESN’s social events allow students to mingle outside of the classroom, broaden their social networks, and apply language skills they’ve learned from class. These social events have included Sunday in the Park events, karaoke outings, vegetarian dim sum breakfast, and more.

Finally, ALESN realizes that volunteering helps volunteers enrich lives and develop positive relationships in the community. Without ample guidance or the right opportunity to arise, some may simply choose not to volunteer. This program seeks to promote volunteerism by placing volunteers in volunteer positions based on their skills, interest, and time commitment, thus enabling them to explore and demonstrate their own capabilities.

With hopes of expanding ALESN to encompass much more Asian language instruction, workshops, and events in the future, ALESN greatly appreciates support from its dedicated student body, its persevering volunteer corps, as well as the general public in order to provide a quality language program.