Investment theme: Building skills and confidence, Growing social networks
Learning English as a woman who speaks other languages
As an English speaker it is easy to take communications skills for granted. However, if you are a woman who has come to Scotland as a refugee or asylum seeker, this is a big issue which will affect all aspects of your life. In Glasgow in 2021 there are 11,000 people on the waiting list for ESOL classes and many women will not even have got to the stage of registering on the list.
Help from the Women’s Fund for Scotland
In 2016 WFS gave £2,000 to Glasgow ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) group to run community-based classes for women in 2 areas of Glasgow at Townhead Village hall and the Whiteinch Centre. The Townhead class attracted 15 to 25 women weekly and the Whiteinch Centre 12 women weekly. Women attending the classes came from a wide variety of situations. Some were recently in Scotland as refugees or asylum seekers, while others had lived here for a few years, and realised they need to improve their language skills.
How this helped women in Glasgow
The impacts of the classes for women attending have varied. For some women the classes simply built their confidence enough to be able to attend a programme of weekly classes for a 6-month period and also to feel more confident about engaging with people in their communities for example communicating with neighbours, teachers and doctors.
One learner commented:
‘I am very happy in my class. I am more confident. I meet my friends and the other ladies and the teacher.’
Other women have used their language skills to get involved in local organisations such as the Central and West Integration Network where a group has cooked meals for people attending a local food bank. Other women have progressed on to college courses once their children are older. The groups contributed to Glasgow’s Aye Write writing festival by submitting short pieces of writing and the Whiteinch group had a class trip to the ESOL writers’ event.
Being a new mother in Scotland without language skills can be very isolating and this group has provided a chance for people to learn English, build confidence and make friends. Some women, shy at first, have stayed with the group while they have their young children. More established group members welcome newcomers. Without the creche, women with children would be unable to attend the group. Having children in the group was really distracting. As one learner said:
‘no creche, no class. The creche means freedom and I can think about something else for a few hours’
Glasgow ESOL Forum manager Jo Jarvis told us
“We support our volunteer ESOL tutors to teach women that would otherwise have no access to ESOL classes. Having a women-only learning environment creates a positive first step for our learners. The creche means the mothers can concentrate on their needs for a while. We see people increase their confidence, makes friends and the children make friends in the creche too.”
For Glasgow ESOL Forum the grant from the Women’s Fund was especially important in helping women with children to get to classes. Since 2016 they have achieved a steady expansion of their services including adapting to online delivery and supplying of digital devices in the context of Covid-19.
If you’d like to help groups like these across Scotland – with the help of the Women’s Fund for Scotland, please get in touch with Shona Blakeley, Executive Director by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org