ESOL students from the Cardinal Hume Centre were recently chosen to work with three academics from the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the School of Advanced Study on a special project.
The academics are all working on quite specific areas of work which you would not normally expect to cover in an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) class. Maria del Pilar Kaladeen works on the period of East Indian indenture to the Caribbean between 1838-1917. She was a volunteer ESOL tutor at the Centre from 2008-12. Her preliminary ESOL class on the history of contracts in the Caribbean led to a fascinating discussion on the migrations which had shaped family histories within the class.
Maria’s colleague, Natalia Bremner, is a specialist on contemporary music in Mauritius and Reunion. She included a reading comprehension exercise on the reggae musician Kaya and a listening comprehension task using one of his songs as part of a gap-fill exercise. Jose Luis Guevara Salamanca is writing his PhD thesis on the history of the book in Latin America. In his class they looked at how maps influence perceptions of people. Students used descriptive language to talk about the places they have come from.
‘The clear highlight of our project was its finale at Senate House. In timed conversations, learners worked in pairs and moved around the classroom listening to academics present their ideas and research. Students asked questions and had a great deal to say about what they had learnt. A real mix of humanities research was shared. This included work that analysed graffiti in two Latin American cities, a study of survivors of the Rwandan genocide and research on the philosophy of lying and deception. Staff and students then had an opportunity to learn more about each other and talk informally over lunch.
‘At least half of the academics who took part in this project have spoken to me about how useful they found it as a way of encouraging them to think about strategies for sharing their work with an audience beyond the academy. Many used diagrams and short worksheets in their interaction with ESOL learners and really valued the chance to be creative in how they conveyed the key elements of their research. With the growing consensus that academics must engage more actively with local communities and the public, projects like this can serve as crucial experience even for the most established scholars. There was an overwhelming consensus from academics and students that a follow-up scheme should take place.’
Fouzia is one of the Centre’s ESOL students who took part in the project and got so much out of it. She says,
‘We learnt a lot of things which helped us to improve our English. The first lesson was delivered by Maria Kaladeen, who always had a bright smile and told us about her ancestors and their country, Guyana. We had two very interesting sessions and time went very quickly.
‘The final session was at Senate House where first we met many academics who told us about their interesting research. It was very kind of them. Then we had lunch which was a social event and we were presented with certificates. The reception was wonderful. We really enjoyed it. Thank you for everything.’
Every year, around 120 people attend English Language classes at the Centre. You can find out more about learning opportunities at the Centre by clicking here.
This report is taken from the Spring 2016 edition of NATECLA News, the magazine of the National Association for Teaching English and Community Languages to Adults.