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Global learning

Hatters Space is a community venue in the heart of Nuneaton. Adult and Community Learning runs regular ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes there. We went along to join one.

The class we visited was practising Speaking and Listening skills in preparation for an exam, so the opportunity to answer questions about learning stories from an inquisitive stranger came in useful, with the added challenge of deciphering a new accent in the process. Regional accents can prove impenetrable at first, which is something fluent English speakers might not be aware of.

The group had certain similarities. Many had been living in the UK for between two and four years, coming from countries as various as Romania, Turkey, Libya and Nepal. However, despite their different cultures, they’d discovered a number of interests in common, including gardening and the gym. Some had young children, who, they reported, were picking up English quickly in the school system. Others spoke and read Arabic. Above all, the group shared the experience of relocating to a new country and the challenge of learning how to communicate - how to understand and be understood.

Some of the class had learned English in their own school days. However, without the chance to practice a language you can soon forget it, and it can seem an abstract task, unless you have plans to visit a country where the language is spoken. Others had spouses who were fluent, and children, who picked up the basics in a matter of weeks because of their age and the level of immersion at an English school. Everyone agreed that practice is the key to fluency. Without using a language regularly, at work for example, It’s hard to build up confidence. But a new language takes most people out of their comfort zone, and it can be hard to push yourself.

The group were all comfortable coming to class, however. They knew what to expect each week, and were making good progress toward their exams. One learner commented the classes had been really helpful when attending parents’ evenings and GPs appointments. Beyond language skills, they’d enjoyed the opportunity to meet people from different cultures who understood how it felt to relocate.

What was the one thing that everyone found most challenging about English? The spelling, of course! If your first language is phonetic, English spelling can come as a shock - and that’s without the complication that in many countries, American spelling is taught. No, not 'tort' ...

We asked the tutor, who is a brilliant communicator, for tips (in addition to speaking slowly, and in clear simple sentences) for communicating with someone who is learning English.

Her answers might not be quite what you expect!

Have empathy.

Be willing to learn a new skill yourself.

Be respectful and allow dignity.

Recognise existing life-skills and experience.

Have an abundance of patience.

Also, it is OK to be honest if you are struggling, as well, and ask whoever you are talking to to be patient!

The message to anyone who might want to improve their English but is worried about attending classes? Our tutors prioritise positive relationships, and are able to make themselves understood clearly. Many speak several languages themselves. They understand the challenges of learning a new language, and are there to help you. You will be supported all the way. The benefits are well worth it! We run classes across the county.

If you think this sounds like someone you know, why not encourage them to come along? If this sounds like you, we look forward to meeting you!

For more information, click on Find a course/ESOL or email acl@warwickshire.gov.uk

Published: 26th April 2022