Lack of takers among migrants for free English lessons

MICHELE ONG
Last updated 05:00 30/01/2014

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Non-English speakers are missing out on free language lessons - because they can't read the ads telling them they're available.

A series of advertisements was run by English Language Partners Taranaki after they were given extra funding to provide up to 360 hours of free English classes for 54 students.

However, responses had been slow despite the heavy marketing.

The ads were placed in English newspapers and non-native speakers shied away from "anything written in English", centre manager Yuka Kobayashi said.

Ms Kobayashi was excited when she heard about the course as she believed it was the first of its kind for the Taranaki region.

It was advertised in mid-October for a February start. Ms Kobayashi had also considered placing advertisements in Chinese newspapers but it was too expensive. She is now relying on readers to take the message to anyone they know who might benefit from the free lessons.

"Word of mouth works better among migrants," she said.

Courses are split into two categories - the New Zealand Certificate in English Language, catering for beginners; and ESOL Intensive, focusing on English for work and everyday life.

A minimum of nine students is needed for each class and Ms Kobayashi is desperate for numbers to fill the beginners' class. Getting the numbers is crucial or the funds might get reallocated to the larger centres in Auckland and Wellington.

"Once you give it away, we can't get it back and that's such a shame," Ms Kobayashi said.

Just to get the six students needed for the beginner's class was hard work, she said. "It's as if the advertisements barely had any effect."

Many migrants said they were too busy to attend English lessons as they had businesses to run and a family to care for, while some said they were too old to be learning a new language.

"But look at the Kiwi ladies who are in their 60s. They're still young and they go to lots of courses," Ms Kobayashi said.

The lessons were a great opportunity for migrants to socialise with each other while picking up a new skill.

"It's quite common for some to be living here for over 20 years and still be unable to speak English," Ms Kobayashi said.

It was especially difficult when the wrong word usage had been "fossilised" by its speaker, making mistakes harder to correct.

Anyone wanting to improve their English should contact Yuka Kobayashi on 021 190 3023 or email taranaki@englishlanguage.org.nz.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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