Migrants' language studies encouraged

ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY
Last updated 05:00 28/01/2014
Susan Henderson
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/ Fairfax NZ
LANGUAGE SKILLS: English Language Partners Aoraki manager Susan Henderson.

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Employers will benefit by encouraging their migrant workers to learn English, according to English Language Partners Aoraki.

Manager Susan Henderson said because migrants often worked in rural areas they were not always visible and were easily ignored.

"They may only hear about an English course through word of mouth," she said.

The immigration requirement to speak English competently varied depending on the visa category that migrant workers entered the country on.

Migrants who become residents receive government funding for 25 hours of tutoring to improve their English.

"The criterion is you have to be a resident and some migrants are working towards becoming a resident but it takes three-plus years," Ms Henderson said.

Some migrants spoke English well and were well qualified but it took a long time for them to get parallel qualifications to work in their chosen fields, so in the meantime they took on any work, she said.

"They have to get used to cultural differences such as smoko breaks and colloquial language."

With support from Waihao Downs School, near Waimate, English Partners has been able to provide migrants with English classes in the evenings since last year. A babysitting service is also offered to enable the adults to learn unhindered.

Ms Henderson hopes to be able to establish more such classes but it was dependent on funding. The organisation is only partially funded by the Government.

English Language Partners Aoraki is a charity and part of New Zealand's largest organisation working with refugees and migrants.

One of the challenges the migrants face is finding the time to attend, as well as transport to get to the lessons.

Ms Henderson would like to see more employers encourage their workers' attendance to upskill their language through funding, adapting work hours and providing transport.

"The benefits for employers include migrant employees having improved language skills, better interaction with other staff, less time lost because of miscommunication, fewer health and safety issues and isolation."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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