Sukhwinder, a 40 year-old lady originally from India, came to England last September having married and lived in Italy for the past 15 years. Fluent in Punjabi and Italian, she spoke no English at all upon arrival and, after settling her child into school and herself into the UK, the opportunity to attend English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) came at just the right time for her. She explained “I wanted to learn to speak and read English because I was finding it very difficult to understand people when going out to do any simple things like shopping or visiting doctors.”
Walsall has 21 different venues delivering free English classes, but Sukhwinder chose to study at Caldmore Community Garden where course provision is delivered by VeenPool media, a newly established UK learning provider offering Pre-Entry to Level 2 courses and resources in the local area of Walsall. At first Sukhwinder noticeably struggled, her tutor, Bhupinder, picks up the story: “She was immediately puzzled by tasks given and copied the behaviour of others in the class to know what to do. She would need multiple explanations of concepts that other learners would pick up more quickly, take longer to finish exercises, and particularly struggled with syntax.”
Sukhwinder became overwhelmed and dropped out, but was encouraged back by Bhupinder who regularly teaches students with learning difficulties and noticed that Sukhwinder shared similar traits to students with dyslexia. So she developed a tailored lesson plan, reducing the number of topics covered by the rest of the class and added a daily phone call of around 20 minutes to closely monitor progress.
Bhupinder also sets daily homework tasks, writing everything down for Sukhwinder to copy, so she can practice writing out the sentences and get more accustomed to syntax and spelling. She practices reading back what she has written to Bhupinder over the phone.
This tailored approach has been fundamental to preventing her from becoming overwhelmed since, and has kept her motivated and engaged throughout the learner journey. Both are pleased with progress so far and Sukhwinder has a new found sense of freedom: “I value it a lot because this has built my confidence and I have been able to interact much better. Initially I was scared to talk to people and would avoid going places. Something as simple as visiting doctor was a huge task in itself.”
Since the coronavirus pandemic physical classes have been on hold, but VeenPool media, alongside a number of other providers, have joined Walsall for All in delivering ESOL programmes online using Zoom. Sukhwinder says the transition to online learning has been an easy one: “It is explained what to do on the phone and I am sent a lesson plan two days prior to the lesson which we follow together. I am enjoying it because I have the full attention of my tutor on a 1-to-1 basis.”