Overcoming Barriers to Learning English as a Second Language in Lockdown

Chloe, ESOL

Learning English as a second language is not easy but during the coronavirus pandemic it is even more challenging. We sat down (virtually, of course!) with Chloe Jacobs, one of our English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) lecturers to find out how she has been supporting and motivating 16-18 students in these difficult times. She also told us about a creative writing project to encourage them to look into a future post Covid-19 world.

“Around half of my 16-18 students arrived in the UK as unaccompanied children seeking asylum having fled countries in fear of their lives. 

“Many of them have suffered with trauma from the devastation of war and atrocities in their own countries and feel stressed and anxious. They feel lonely and isolated and in many cases do not have an established support network of friends or any family here or at all.

“They are unlikely to understand all the government rules around coronavirus, and many live in hostels where they do not have a lot of personal space during lockdown. 

“They are generally in low spirits and feeling anxious having migrated to a place of education and safety, and now it turns out that that is not the case. Some received little or no education in their home countries and are worried that they will not be able to get the education that they have struggled so hard to reach. 

“A lot of the non-asylum seeking 16-18 ESOL students who arrived with family as economic migrants are also worried about getting even further behind in their education, having arrived in the UK before completing their GCSE-equivalent year in their countries. 

“I was concerned that this could lead to many of them feeling they might as well give up.

“At CANDI, we have provided financial support to help all students access online learning during the coronavirus pandemic. Switching to remote learning has been hard for many ESOL students, particularly at entry level. Using the group chat in Microsoft Teams has enabled them to react and respond even more during online lessons.

“Pair and group work are pivotal to language learning, and these have been replicated by running smaller groups simultaneously on Teams and jumping between them to monitor students’ progress. This has been combined with self-study, including websites such as BBC Learning English and the British Council’s ESOL Nexus, as well as help with course progression and preparing for job interviews.

“As ESOL teachers, we have explained the Covid-19 legislation in a way they can understand, updating them about any changes and how they can keep themselves safe in lockdown. One of our online class projects I used to keep them motivated came from asking them what they had been up to during this time. 

“The discussion led to a lesson on the present perfect continuous tense (eg I have been working, we have been chatting, etc). Students were asked to find out what their classmates had been doing at a fictional reunion in 10 years’ time and then write articles for a 2030 college alumni magazine.

“Reading the students’ articles was so incredibly heart-warming, and it was so good to hear them sounding so happy in an alternative reality, which hopefully will turn out to be their actual reality in 10 years’ time.

“The whole project felt so pertinent where there is a need to keep aspirations high at this difficult and unprecedented time.”

Although our buildings are currently closed, we are still open for business and are accepting applications for courses starting in September. Click here to find out more and to apply for ESOL courses for 16-18s and adults.

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