My name is Caroline and, following a spell of ill-health, I have turned to language mentoring to give something back to the community.
I am one of two mentors facilitating TimeBank's Talking Together mentoring group that has been running now for a month at the Shama Centre, Leicester.
My co-mentor Tahereh (pictured on the left of the group) is a trained teacher, originally from Iran, who has lived in Britain for nearly 20 years. So Tahereh herself has first-hand experience of learning English as a second language.
We are smaller than the average group with four mentees. Our learners come originally from India, Nigeria and Turkey. Their confidence and use of English – and the length of time that they have been in Britain – varies from a very limited understanding of all but a few English words or phrases, to being able to speak conversational English and to communicate confidently with professionals. By talking together everyone benefits.
So what has bought people to the group? Some are interested in taking the next steps in their English Language training and signing up for a formal English Language training course, such as English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). Others goals are to learn how to gain training for employment for example, by learning to sew. Still others want to be able to support their grandchildren by using a computer or by improving their English reading skills.
The mentoring course is very practical. So far we have used selected sessions from ‘English My Way’ materials to cover some basic English language skills such as learning how to say ‘I like/ I don’t like’ and ‘I want’. We have also practised the vocabulary, listening and understanding skills needed to make enquiries and to book appointments. This week we used a computer to complete a session designed by another mentor, and shared with us via our project co-ordinator Jane, exploring the concept and practicalities of volunteering and introducing our mentees to the do-it.org volunteering website.
Through the use of leaflets and sharing information found on the internet we have also had a chance to extend our knowledge of local amenities, such as the swimming pools at Oadby and Beaumont Leys and Abbey Park. Next week we are planning a trip to the New Walk Museum; a first for our group. The course attendees all have caring responsibilities and spend much their week at home cooking and looking after children or grandchildren so we hope that this local information and experience will give them some new ideas about places to go in and around Leicester with their families.
We've now extended our Talking Together project to London so if you are interested in volunteering with us take a look here.