What a fantastic response to our Talking Together project!

It’s hard to believe that TimeBank’s Talking Together project has only been going for six months. We’ve already trained more than 60 volunteer English teachers, with others waiting to be trained as part of our rolling monthly induction and train the trainer programme.

We have 12 local community delivery partners working with us to enrol learners (at the moment we’ve had to close our waiting list such is the interest). There are 18 classes underway across Birmingham and Leicester, most facilitated by a lead and assistant volunteer trainer, and our first learner cohorts will be completing shortly; for some this will be an opportunity to meet local councillors and be presented with their awards.  

The Talking Together project is providing a much needed service in the Midlands; the response has been overwhelming.  What we can see from the interest is that residents do want to learn English and there is a real need for projects like ours which are free, easy to access and provide a learning opportunity right in the heart of the community.  

When the project started, we knew that there were lots of things that we do day-to-day that non-English speakers would find really difficult: chatting to teachers about a child, going to the doctor or hospital, shopping, reading mail, filling in paperwork or talking to neighbours.

What has made a deep impression on the team is how vulnerable this makes people feel. Sometimes they have left most of their family and friends behind and feel isolated and lonely here in the UK. If they cannot speak English they might not be aware that there are services that can help - or know how to access them.

It’s been brilliant to see people build confidence and engage more with their communities, although this can sometimes be unsettling for other family members.  One husband became uneasy when his wife became more confident and assertive but was soon reassured by the team.

By empowering mothers, children also benefit.  One child refused to hold his mother’s hand while they walked to school because he was ashamed that she couldn’t speak English. Now she is able to help him with his homework.

Our volunteers too are telling us what a great time they’re having. It’s a chance for them to make a massive difference as well as gain hands on teaching experience, enhance their CV and maybe even take the first steps towards a rewarding career in education. A win win situation for everyone in fact!

TimeBank’s Talking Together project works with local community partners in Birmingham and Leicester to offer informal and flexible language teaching to long-term UK residents who have little or no knowledge of English. If you’d like to get involved, take a look here.