I'm helping to bring the diverse communities of Birmingham together

Our Talking Together project recruits and trains volunteers to offer informal, spoken language training to long-term residents with little or no English, most of whom are women from the Bangladeshi, Somali and Pakistani communities. Here, one of our volunteers, Niamh, tells why she got involved ...

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Almost five months ago, after completing a CELTA course and becoming newly qualified as a teacher of English as a second language, I signed up with TimeBank to gain a little more teaching experience and I’ve loved every second of it.

It’s such a wonderful experience meeting a diverse range of women with an eagerness to learn, form new friendships and grow in confidence. I grew up in Birmingham and have the privilege of living in this cultural melting pot of a city. With the Talking Together project I have helped contribute to bringing the many communities of Birmingham together through the shared language of English and hopefully (and more importantly) made a few women’s everyday lives a little less stressful.

Exploring the city with its many sites and attractions as a group is a great way to practice the vital, everyday English we teach and develop the confidence of the men and women who have dedicated themselves to learning with us.

I recently joined Nazia and her Talking Together group at the Golden Hillock on a day trip to the BBC Studios at the Mailbox in Birmingham’s city centre. 

Firstly, we needed to travel by train from Small Heath to Moor Street station. Many of the women in our group had never taken the train and had no idea they could be in the city centre in just a few minutes. The ladies took turns enquiring about times and ticket prices before we hopped on the train feeling pretty pleased with ourselves, a great start to the trip.

At the BBC Studios we were given a grand tour around the building with two friendly guides who gave the group every opportunity to ask questions and practice their English. We were shown the local news studio and were amazed by how it’s made to look so much bigger with the magic of television and extremely expensive cameras. The ladies also got the opportunity to become weathergirls, testing their reading skills on an autocue before heading down to the radio studio to see the local DJs. A lot of the BBC Studios is open to the public and many of the ladies were eager to come back with their families for a day out.

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We strolled to the pavilions for lunch, passing New Street Station where we discussed what other cities they can visit such as London, Liverpool and Manchester where some of the women have family. Once we arrived at the pavilions the ladies ordered their own food and sampled the local cuisine (you can’t beat a plate of pizza and chips).

As I chatted with these lovely ladies about the trip, their families and their interests I could see how something so outwardly everyday as a trip to the city centre could be so important and offer these women such an invaluable opportunity to show off all their hard work as well as enjoy themselves, together.

If you'd like to get involved in Talking Together, take a look here.