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Diary of a Creative English Trainer: Interlude

Volunteer Progress

I would like to take a serious moment in my blog today, because I have seen firsthand the effect that Creative English is having on an individual’s life.

Yasmin (not her real name) came initially to our Ilford class.  She comes from Pakistan, with a qualification in IT, and has a small toddler.  Because she was a little more advanced than the others, I felt she might benefit from more of a challenge, so I invited her to become a volunteer with me at our latest class in Newham.  When I phoned her, she was delighted to be asked and immediately agreed to come.

She was very nervous the first week, but by her second visit this Tuesday, she was joining in like an old-timer.  When I chatted to her about it on our journey home, she shared how much she was enjoying it.  I asked her how Creative English had made a difference.  She explained that she had felt that she was not good enough for an ESOL class and had been waiting until she felt more confident. This is so contrary to the truth, but she, like so many other non-English speakers, was trapped by lack of confidence and knowledge of how things work in the world of Further Education training.

I reassured her that she was the perfect candidate for more formal ESOL classes.  She also said that she now feels more confident to go in shops.  I find it sad that it has taken her four years in the UK to be able to say this, as her spoken English is most definitely at a standard of adequate communication.

She is helping me with the initial registration and signing-in process and, once people have arrived, Yasmin sits alongside the students, helping with group work, translating the odd sentence into their languages.

She is also slowly becoming a friend.  One of the key aspects to the Creative English programme is its emphasis on building confidence by emotional connection, which in itself releases language. And spending time with me gives her access to a native English speaker – probably the only one – and so this increases her opportunities to try out new vocabulary and grammar in a safe context.

I am completely sold on the idea of drawing people alongside like this; I have found it works in a range of contexts, and you don’t have to wait until they are the perfect volunteer before you ask them. And since a key value of FaithAction is to promote strong and healthy relationships, I don’t think you can really go wrong!