A keen cohort of migrant learners has been participating in Advance Diversity Services’ (ADS) English conversation classes for multicultural communities, and their improvement has been impressive.

Led by ADS volunteers Subhash and Ajita Rughani, the weekly classes have been fun, interactive, educational and empowering – with learners practising speaking and listening to build confidence in their English abilities.

Lessons have related to a wide range of practical topics that are helping learners to negotiate and enjoy everyday life in Australia. Topics have included:

  • Introductions and greetings, where they are from, where they live and how to ask about each other’s families.
  • Knowing, memorising and telling each other their addresses and phone numbers.
  • Learning how to contact emergency services, to dial 000, and what information should be provided when they do.
  • Identifying weather patterns and practising new sentences, like ‘How is the weather today?’ and ‘It is raining today, I need an umbrella.’

Times of the day, activities people can do, days, months, directions have also featured and led to some hands-on homework tasks like making a grocery list and practising skills while out at the shops by asking the workers, ‘I need to buy eggs’ and ‘How much does milk cost?’

In a recent class, everyone took turns to ask ‘How was your weekend?’ and then to explain what their own weekend had held. One creative learner turned the tables, teaching the class Tai Chi while he spoke about his weekend activities.

Team Leader, Emerging Communities, Settlement and Community Services, Magdaline Shenton-Kaleido, said it was satisfying to see the learners flourish as they practised conversation and consolidated language with each other. The classes also brought benefits to individuals and communities in the region which extended beyond their important role in English language acquisition.

‘Grandparents – especially Nepalese and Chinese grandparents – often migrate to Australia to look after grandchildren for their working kids,’ said Ms Shenton-Kaleido.

‘The English classes provide not only English – which few of the grandparents seem to have – but also combat loneliness, provide community, foster intercultural connection and offer participants lots of fun and laughter in their lessons.

‘This is especially true for those who can’t go to Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) to study due to their family responsibilities caring for their children’s children.

‘I’m just so glad ADS can be there for them – offering them a chance to improve their skills and providing a social setting in which they can encounter a sense of belonging.’

Ms Shenton-Kaleido said ADS had recently nominated the volunteers who run the Monday morning multicultural English classes for the Chris Minns volunteer of the year award because of their dedication and commitment.

Along with the Monday classes, Subhash and Ajita Rughani have co-facilitated intercultural English classes with the Chinese and Nepalese grandparents since 2018, including online Zoom classes during COVID lockdowns.  

Subhash was born and raised in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Of Indian ancestry, he is married to Ajita who is from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Both are successful professionals who are now retired. They love volunteering together to ‘give back’ to the community.

Subhash has also been a member of the ADS Men’s Wellbeing group since its inception in 2015 and a White Ribbon ambassador and a strong advocate and supporter of “No to Violence” actions and activities. 

‘Subhash and Ajita know what it’s like to be a new migrant in a strange country,’ said Ms Shenton-Kaleido, ‘and this informs their teaching, which is laced with understanding and compassion.

‘Their intelligence, warmth and humour are vital to how they run their classes and we and our learners are very lucky to have them as volunteer teachers.’

To join the weekly ADS English Conversation class, improve your language and make new friends, call 9597 5455 or email info@advancediversity.org.au