This paper analyses the comments of a group of learners on their participation in an English corner on the Chinese mainland. It highlights that the particular ‘English corner’ concerned in this study has become a social community where the participants could find supportive peers and self-assertion opportunities. The learners’ participation in the community enhanced their autonomous learning and fostered subtle changes in their self-identities. The learning of English in the community echoes what constitutes a humanistic view of learning. The study invites language teachers to consider how such out-of-class learning activities can be integrated into our pedagogic practices. Copyright © 2008 The Author. Published by Oxford University Press.