Taking Creative English online: combatting loneliness

When we embarked on the first lockdown, we knew it was going to be really important for people’s well-being to find ways to continue to connect. One expression of this has been adapting our Creative English programme to run online. Little did we know, when we ran our first sessions in April, that this would still be a crucial way to stay connected the following January during Lockdown 3.0, and we’re delighted that even more community organisations and places of worship are getting involved in combatting isolation and providing a positive focus when people’s options are limited.

As with the standard programme, Creative English Online covers English for everyday situations, such as talking to doctors, shop assistants, landlords and neighbours. It includes situations, language, and scenarios which are particularly useful in the context of COVID-19, such as online appointments and looking after mental health. And as with the main programme, it uses a mixture of games, storytelling and role-play to help learners form friendships, access appropriate support when needed, and get confident using the English language. Many of those taking part said that they had lost confidence through the sustained lack of opportunity to speak English outside the home during the pandemic.

One learner, Suli, explained:

This class has been a lifeline. Every day, I think “Is it English today?” It’s hard when there’s so little to do. I was feeling so sad and depressed. My confidence disappeared like rain. I spoke to no one. Only my kids and that’s not the same. In Creative English Zoom class, I was shy at first, but slowly, slowly my confidence come and my happy come back. I have made friends, even though I haven’t seen them in person and I am looking forward to the end of corona virus when we can all meet and have party together!

Creative English is usually delivered by an amazing team of volunteers of all ages and walks of life. Some are former learners from the programme; some enjoy it as a break from the routine of their paid work; some are community workers; and some are retired or juggling sessions with childcare, facilitating with their children joining in. For those volunteers who have had to shield for most of the year, getting involved has been important for their own well-being. One of our new volunteers, Jenny, for example, who got involved with the programme in the summer, explains her experiences:

At the age of 82, I really didn’t expect to be doing new things on the computer this year! My son-in-law set up Zoom for me and you are encouraged to facilitate in a pair, so my partner opens the meeting, so I just log on and enjoy the class! It’s fun and sociable, especially when things are a bit lonely and boring with coronavirus. I’m sure I get as much out of it as the ladies who come for their English!

I really enjoy meeting people in the classes. I didn’t know many people from other countries before, but I really enjoy hearing about all the ladies’ cultures – so many things different and the same! They are all so lovely and we have such fun together.

The course is very useful too – we learn all useful things for them to know. We all roleplay and have a good laugh. Sometimes I role-play being the doctor or receptionist. It’s surprising how your experiences can be useful for people – I could tell them all what happened when I had my flu vaccine, for example. They were interested about the queuing and the one-way system and everything. It’s nice to be able to help someone, even a little bit.

This week, another group of fabulous facilitators have trained to support members of their community through the Zoom sessions. We are planning on running another training session in the final week of January, so more people can run sessions through the current lockdown. You can train up to four volunteers and receive the presentations, session plans and supporting resources for just £300 or as part of your existing Creative English licence!

Please get in touch with [email protected] for more information or to get involved.

About Dr Anne Smith

Creative English Lead Trainer

Dr Anne Smith is the Lead Trainer and Founder of the Creative English programme. In this role, she writes session plans and materials, trains facilitators and supports those delivering Creative English. She is responsible for developments of the Creative English programme, including variations to support Health Professionals and Creative English: Family Learning.