Learning and sharing

MOVING overseas and not speaking the language can be an extremely isolating and difficult experience.

The students in Sale Federation Training’s Certificate of Spoken and Written English class know this feeling of solitude all too well.

In a class where the majority of students in the class are women, and the education levels vary, migrants from across Gippsland come together to learn English, but also to connect with one another in place of shared understanding.

Teacher Susan Murphy explained there were solutions in place to help better integrate new residents to the area.

“When migrants pay for their visas, they also pay for 510 hours of English lessons,” she said.

“They come to this class to learn English, but it’s a great opportunity to come to socialise with one another and make friends.”

Ms Murphy found her work rewarding, and was proud of all of her students.

“There’s a determination and bravery that I really admire in all of them,” she said.

“They’ve got a strength about them, so I know they’re going to be okay, or else they wouldn’t have come here to learn.”

Some of the students, such as Tahira Tasneem, have never read or written anything in their lives.

“No school in Pakistan, here, my teachers are very good,” she said.

Ms Tasneem is an Ahmadiyya Muslim, who has been living in Australia for 15 months, joining her husband and two daughters who fled persecution in Pakistan to make a new life in Australia seven years ago.

Unfortunately, Ms Tasneem’s husband’s law accreditations did not apply in Australia, but he has since retrained, commuting by train from Sale to LaTrobe University five days a week for six years.

“My husband had a good job in Pakistan, here, not so good,” Ms Tasneem said.

This frustration was shared among the class; the language barrier is also an obstacle to employment.

“People often have higher levels of qualifications but can’t get a job in their area of expertise, and have to settle for less,” Ms Murphy explained.

“These people are hardworking and determined, but often their qualifications aren’t recognised here.”

A former professor of German in a Vietnamese university, Phuong Nguyen could not get a job in Australia, and now looks after her two young sons full time.

“I had a respectful job in Vietnam, but here now taking care of my baby is much more stressful,” she said.

“Before class, I was so bored and depressed at home.

“I still have some difficulties, especially when I come to doctors, I don’t always understand what people are saying, and I would like to find any job, any, I don’t care.

“I’ve made friends here that understand, that are in the same situation as me, and we can learn culture and new experiences together.”

Yan Zhao, a former accountant for 22 years, also could not seek work in her field as her accreditation did not transfer internationally, so she is currently working as a cleaner at Sale Golf Club.

Ms Zhao was extremely receptive of the English language, despite only moving to the country 10 months ago.

“I understand a little bit more every day, I’m getting more confident,” she said.

“I must study hard, and I make sure that if I make a mistake, I learn so I don’t make the same mistake again,”

Ms Zhao hoped to retrain as an aged care worker.

In the classroom, Ms Murphy is aided by volunteers from the community, which she saw as an opportunity for community interaction and understanding.

Prue McNaughton takes time out from her full time job as a grade six teacher at Gippsland Grammar to volunteer.

“Sometimes we’ll read, we just go through some work in class that might be tricky, or if something’s come up during the week,” Ms McNaughton said.

Ms McNaughton’s grade six class is currently studying immigration as a topic at school, and she hoped to bring some of the Federation Training students to her classroom.

People interested in joining the classroom, either as a volunteer or a student, can phone Federation Training’s Flexible Learning Centre Customer Service Centre in Sale on 1300 133 717.