“I was a stranger and you welcomed me”
Imagine coming to live in a country where you are unable to speak the language – or you thought you could until you arrived! You may be a highly educated professional but now you become dependent on others to help you negotiate the most basic of tasks such as shopping or using public transport.
Imagine not being able to go the Doctor without taking your husband or child to interpret for you – no matter how personal your symptoms might be! Or, with children at school, not being able to understand what is being said at parents evening.
And what about making sense of what you might see in the streets – poppies, red noses, fireworks, Santa?
These are some of the issues that face the thirty or so ladies that come to our English classes. Some have been in Britain for many years and have not had the opportunity to really engage with English people, staying at home to raise their children and care for elderly relatives. Others came here seeking asylum and are now making their home here. Many are here whilst their husbands as studying or working at the university. Some have arrived as new brides and others are looking for work. The students come from across the globe – from Latin America, Europe, South Asia, the Middle East and East Asia.
We work at three different levels – beginners, intermediate and advanced, tailoring our lessons and topics to what our students need. We do a lot of conversation, practising functional and everyday English. Not only do we look at language but also at all aspects of life in the UK. We love the time that we can spend together and many friendships are formed which continue long after some of our ladies have left the course. It is a safe space where we can have a lot of fun and laughter together as well as support and help each other. For all these students, this is as important as learning the language.
As the ladies grow in their language skills they also grow in their confidence. For some, this means an independent visit home to their family in South Asia. For others it is the big step of applying for jobs and getting through the interviewing process. Some are now able talk to other mums at school or welcome their children’s friends into their home.
As teachers, we feel immensely privileged to be part of this work and get to know these lovely ladies. We are enriched as we share life together. And the end of term parties are something else…..!