English Language

Many refugees arrive into the UK with little or no English language competency.  

Ability to speak, write and read English is essential for integration.  Without English refugees struggle to access employment, have difficulties communicating with health and other social care professionals and struggle to support their children at school.  Research shows that learning English is high on refugees’ lists of priorities, but that learning can be difficult because they lack opportunities to access classes or to practice outside of classes.  Helping refugees to find out how to access ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes is important but refugees will learn much more quickly if they receive other help as well. 

There are number of ways refugees can be helped to learn English:

  • Provide assistance with ESOL class registration and to claim fee remission.
  • Work with the local ESOL provider to encourage them to offer classes suitable for refugees with different learning abilities – those with high levels of education will learn differently to those who have not attended school or college previously.
  • Offer ESOL classes in community locations – volunteers with teaching experience could help to run these in addition to formal language classes.
  • Support women to attend ESOL classes by providing free help with childcare.
  • Make sure some classes are offered outside of working hours so those who are employed can continue to improve their English.
  • Organise language cafes or other social opportunities where refugees can practice their English outside of classes.
  • Match refugees with language mentors of the same sex and similar age whom they can meet with regularly to converse.
  • Offer vocational language placements where refugees can shadow individuals in the workplace and learn vocational language.

There has been several pilot schemes that ran in ‘sending’ countries.  For example The QED Foundation worked in partnership with Mirpur University of Science and Technology (MUST) to deliver free courses for women who were in the process of applying to enter the UK to join their husbands. Funding for these courses came from the European Fund for the Integration of Third Country Nationals. The courses ran for ten weeks on a part time basis, led by fully trained English Language teachers at Mirpur University campus. Examinations were set by a UK Border Agency recognised test provider.