Keele Language Centre helps refugees and asylum seekers learn English


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Language Centre
Posted on 17 March 2017

Keele University’s Language Centre has now worked with The African Social Health Agency (ASHA) in Hanley for five years, helping more than 200 refugees and asylum seekers during this time.

Keele students on the Trinity CertTESOL programme, run by the Language Centre, provide English language support to vulnerable people who have no other provision to learn English. The Centre offers two sessions every week with 12 learners in each session, conducted by two members of teaching staff and four Keele students.

The Language Centre, which has received two Keele Key Fund grants totaling £7,104, provides fresh fruit and materials for ASHA and helps fund Keele students’ travel expenses.

English Language Teaching Fellow Barbara James, who leads the Centre’s outreach programme with ASHA and is also a trustee, said: “We are very proud of our relationship as it is mutually beneficial to both organisations. Our students from Keele benefit from developing their own sensitivity and responsibility for vulnerable members of the community, and asylum seekers benefit from the delivery of professional language training in a non threatening situation.”

Keele University students have also donated clothes and food items as well as giving gifts to ASHA-supported families each Christmas. This generosity has extended beyond the Language Centre to other Schools and individuals, and to the University itself, which has donated classroom tables and chairs to help improve the learning environment at ASHA.

One of the asylum seekers who attends English language sessions at ASHA, said: “I came from a former Soviet republic. When I came to the UK I knew a few words in English. It was difficult to be here without knowledge of language. And of course I wished to make friends here but without language it was hard.

“I heard about English classes in ASHA from an asylum seeker. The classes were very nice. The teachers and students did very well. They were friendly and patient with us.

“After a short time I started to speak English. I could explain in shops what exactly I wanted. I could speak with my GP without an interpreter. It was amazing. Now I have a lot of friends and I happy because I can speak English. I want to say a big thanks for the teachers and students from Keele University who teach us.”

From the teaching sessions the trainees see first-hand the plight of displaced refugees and asylum seekers and the need for them to integrate into their new community and breakdown the language barrier.

Lily May Byfield, a Keele University Trinity CertTESOL student, said: “I absolutely love teaching at ASHA. The students are so friendly and willing to learn and we always have a laugh. It makes me even more certain that I want to teach English as a career once I leave Keele. I can’t wait to get back to ASHA next semester.”

Find out more about the Language Centre here.


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