At the beginning of the week, a diverse group of students from all walks of life congregate in a church space.
New to Canberra and eager to learn, they are hoping to polish up on their English language skills to be able to better communicate and contribute to the multicultural society that has made Canberra what it is today.
Twice a week during school terms, Woden Community Service (WCS) runs free English language classes in Lyons for anyone wanting to learn.
On Mondays they are held from 9:30 am – 11:30 am at St Alban’s Anglican Church, 31 Chappell St, Lyons, and on Tuesdays from 9:30 am – 11:30 am at the Lutheran Church, 37 Burnie St, Lyons.
Learning pronunciation and vocabulary
“My English is not good, so I am coming to the classes to improve my pronunciation and vocabulary,” explains Yani, one of the students who attend the Tuesday class.
She has been attending for about two months now, having recently arrived in Australia from Indonesia.
“This class is really helpful. It is systematic in its approach and the teachers give handouts and materials. The teachers are really good,” said Yani.
“It is really helpful because we learn from the teacher how to say the words correctly. And they give us grammar topics to work on. Like today’s lesson – they have been teaching us how to write an email,” said Yani.
Lynda Campbell, Simone Crane, Jenifer North and Sally Bakker (currently travelling) teach the class on a voluntary basis, each taking turns to lead a particular lesson or subject.
In this case, Lynda leads the lesson on how to write an email and works on the text with each student, reading aloud the text, making suggestions, providing advice on appropriate expressions and generally encouraging each student in their work.
One student has written an informal message to a friend inviting them over for dinner. Another has written a more formal note to a school principal requesting a meeting.
Providing recently arrived families with language support
Hammat arrived in Canberra from Egypt 18 months ago and has been attending this class for one year.
“I want to improve my English as I have four children and three are at school. I want to be able to help them with their studies,” explains Hammat.
Hammat was first introduced to the free community-led classes when her children were at Hughes Primary School where the Southside Primary Introductory English Centre is located, a resource for students who have recently arrived in Australia.
“When I first came to Canberra I went to the class for parents attached to the School. It was there that I learnt about all the community language classes,” she said.
“I try to do a class each day. After my children go to school I come to a class for two hours, then I go to the market, home to cook and then pick up the kids,” said Hammat.
“The classes are great. Yes, I am learning English, but I have also made friends from lots of different cultures. And I find out about places where I can take my children in Canberra,” said Hammat.
Friendly and supportive environment
The volunteer teachers, Lynda, Simone, Jenifer and Sally, work together to prepare interesting lessons. Often the lessons will introduce and explain local cultural events and customs that may be new to the students.
“But we also learn from the students,” says Jenifer. “For instance, one of our students from China did a presentation on the five types of green tea as an opportunity to practice speaking English. It was so interesting and now we all enjoy trying and drinking different types of tea at the end of the class.”
“We go with what the students want to learn,” said Lynda, adding, “and the students all help each other.”
To find out more about English Language classes offered by Woden Community Service phone (02) 6181 2802 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.