Migrant learners with disparate needs

3rd September 2004 at 01:00
Seyhan, a 24-year-old Turkish woman, has been in this country for three-and-a-half years. She married a Turkish man who already lived in Britain.

She found out about Westminster Kingsway college through the Hot Courses guide. When she arrived in the UK, the only words she knew were Yes and No.

Last term she studied English for two evenings a week, but this term she is studying English full-time for five days a week.

She says the classes are "quite good" but that she would like to progress more quickly.

Vera is a 28-year-old Ukrainian who is married to an Englishman. She is studying entry level three English in classes at Westminster Kingsway college's Soho building.

She has been in this country for four years and has been granted indefinite leave to remain. The fees for her tuition are being met by the state.

"I just paid an initial pound;10 - which really surprised me," she said.

"I did not know I could get free tuition here.

"When I first came to England I spent a lot of money on private-school classes. My friend told me about this college.

"If you are going to become a citizen of this country you need to know its history.

"You definitely need to know the language and be able to read and write - otherwise you are just somebody who came for a better life and does not want to know anything about the country they are going to live in and raise their kids."

She attends classes for three hours a day, five days a week, and works part-time as a sales assistant. In her class she is one of 16 students from all over the world.

"The teaching is good and the teacher is very patient with us and very polite," she said.

Ali, 34, has spent most of his life in Iran but has been given indefinite leave to stay in England with some other members of his family..

His brother, who was already resident in the UK and has a restaurant in London, enjoys dual Iranian and British nationality.

Ali has now been in Britain for three years and is studying on the entry level three English course at Westminster Kingsway college.

"The English classes are wonderful," he said.

Staff at the college have promised that next year they will help Ali to find employment as a chef in a French restaurant.

Sahm is a 20-year-old refugee from Iraq. After fleeing persecution in his home country, he was granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

Arriving in England 14 months ago, he approached the local council in Croydon - where he is staying with his uncle - about English classes. The authority directed Sahm to the Refugee Council, whose English classes he has been attending for the past 50 weeks. His tuition and travel costs are paid for.

"We were under siege in Iraq," he said. "We could not travel anywhere - therefore, I did not pay attention to learning the English language. But when I came here I started studying hard. I want to become an electronic engineer."

Sahm studied computing in Iraq, but in September he will begin an electronics degree at Westminster university.

He does not want to mix with the Iraqi community in London as he believes he would end up speaking Arabic all the time - and he really wants to improve his speaking skills in English.

"I am looking for English friends," he said.

"I think the best way to learn English is from the British people you are in company with."

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