Our impact - transforming people's lives

We set up Talking Together to help UK residents learn everyday English. Many are women from the Bangladeshi, Somali and Pakistani communities and without language skills, they can be completely isolated. They can’t do everyday things we take for granted, like talk to teacher about a child, visit the doctor or go shopping. See how the project changed their lives.

We're seeing tangible benefits for learners and they're not shy about telling us either:

I couldn’t understand English or read it. Translator would tell me what the other is saying and what I have to do and how to do. This is how someone else would explain to me in my language. But then I got gradually used to it from all the explanations (in classes) and started to try and understand English. Muhammad

After these classes I can now speak lot better and even can read to some extentNaseer

(Volunteer) has taught us well. Now I can speak, write and read to some extent. I can even understand little bit English now.Fareeda

Now after this six week course I can speak a little but still I cannot write. I will try to learn to write in future.Farzana

Now since I joined the class and attended the course I can speak and understand English much better. Life has changed for good now.Parveen

We asked whether learners had received any support from their family or local community:

Neighbours and friends they all told me to go and join this course and learn English language.My family too had advised me to learn English. I did take help from my family and others with whatever I couldn’t understand. They would then explain it to me. So this is how I learned some from them too.Fareeda

My family has helped me a lot. Whatever I used to learn from here then back at home my husband would help me with that. He helped me join this course too and said that they teach well. Now I can use English at home and shops. Shumaila

Whatever I learned here I would go and share with my kids at home. Then they would also help me to learn better by pointing out my mistakes and telling me what is right. They taught me meanings of the words.Naseem

My family told me that they will look after my house works and that I should just go and give time to class and learn English.Farzana

I was helped by my friends at work. There they all would speak English with me to help me improve it.Naseer

My wife helped me a lot. She encouraged me to learn English. Previously when I used to visit hospital I couldn’t speak with doctor so I had to take my wife along for help. Now I can go by myself and I can handle things at my own.Naseemullah

We wondered whether learners helped each other and formed friendships:

All my class fellows were very good. We helped each other in understanding lessons. We were good, came on time and left on time together.Naseemullah

If there was something that I couldn’t understand then all my class fellows would try to help me understand it. Whoever could understand better will make others understand too.Naseer

We all are friends and we helped each other. If there was something we couldn’t understand then those who did understand will explain it to us what it means. So they helped.Muhammad

We all used to study together. Whatever we couldn’t help each other with then we would seek teacher’s help for that. It was very good class.Farzana

Whatever I couldn’t understand then those who knew better would tell it to me. We described things to each other.Shumaila

Everyone from the class helped each other and we also organised combined study and used to ask questions from each other. Class fellows even helped with writing spellings of the words that we didn’t know. Every one helped each other.Naseem

We were interested in identifying tangible benefits:

If I go to bank, there I can handle my matters at my own. I have received lots of knowledge and now I can handle any matter that involves English language because now I can write and I can speak even.Now when I go out and if any one speaks English with me then I can understand a little and to some extent I can even explain myself. I can tell about myself what I do and other things. If anyone asks me about any address, then I can guide them and tell them what bus to take to go where they want to. Muhammad

Now if I go out I can talk to shopkeeper and buy what I want to. Now even for hospitals I can understand appointments and their schedules.Fareeda

Now I can speak English at home with my kids and can even make an appointment with doctor and visit him by myself and for that I do not need anyone’s help any more. I go there myself. I can speak with doctor in English language.Naseem

If I go somewhere I can now express myself. So English has improved my life. Shumaila

When I started this class then I started to learn how to write and speak in better way. Now I feel much more confident.Muhammad

What do learners see as their next step?

I can now speak English a little so I can chose to take job if I want to. I also wish to learn English further so that am able to speak and understand it in better manner. Once I know English then I can go and learn any work for job. I need to know English so that I can better my life.Shumaila

I want to continue learning English in future too. This is so that I can understand and speak it better than now. Now it will become easy for me to find and do any kind of job.Naseem

I would like to continue doing the English course to learn further, so that I could speak and write in proper English.Fareeda

Now if I go looking for job then I can use what I have learned from here. I can use this for everything so this is very good for my future.Naseemullah

I still want to continue the course and I hope to improve my English further by learning more.Muhammad

Doing this course has given me a lot of encouragement to study further and learn in future. Now I wish to study and learn more.Naseer

I first want to improve my English and then look for job that is after I have improved my English. I want to clear driving licence test too. I want to learn to drive as it is very much required for life.I want to educate those who don’t know English with as much that I have learned here and I know. Farzana

We spoke to Maya, one of the volunteer language trainers, about whether she'd benefitted herself from the experience:

Yes, I jumped in and I loved it straightaway, I really got into teaching, so I signed up three months ago for a (teaching) course … I think that the volunteer work that I've been doing has been perfect.

How did she run her courses?

I've taught the course quite few times and every single rotation there are people whose level of English is different and I so adapt the lessons … but they're still not entry one level ESOL yet, it's all within a certain low standard.

I try to learn their names instantly, so I'm able to engage with everybody and then I can assess people quite quickly. I will know what I'm doing with my lessons then. I have my lessons and my worksheets ready; I'll pass out the work, if somebody's struggling, I would pair them with somebody else so they could help each other and do some other things, so you really have to be on your feet and be very quick

I've had friendships connected and they go away and they help each other out in the community or do something together and I think it's so important. Obviously, I can do a little bit outside of my role to help them with things, there's only so much we can do but they can be of so much support for each other.

The one thing that really shocked me was that one of my students couldn't use a pen to write characters. From then everyone who had the white sheets I would cut the words and they should put them in right places. I am constantly planning every lesson; and you learn so much. You just improve all the time.

Each group was twelve people, fourteen at one point. Huge groups! First week, I panicked, because everything was going too quickly, I hadn't realised there was going to be such a gap, none of them was good enough to go to a functional skills course which is offered, and that was so huge gap. First, it was a little bit of struggle, but the way that worked to our class - you must pair people up, you have different levels of worksheets, so all can contribute as much as they can

We also asked Rakhiya, another long term volunteer with EBCF, if there was anything she might change:

The biggest problem is because we're all placed in separate locations, we can't communicate to each other easily, and it's nice to have a ‘buddy’. When I was at the start I had Maya, I spoke to Maya: "What is it like, is it OK?" What we did from the (TimeBank three day) training session us three or four girls we made a WhatsApp group and we started talking to each other, sharing resources, sharing confidences with each other, because we're all new to it. And that's what we found, you talk to each other, you say "Oh my God that was hard, that was easy, that was like this" or "you did great there".

So maybe the volunteer, once s/he finishes the three day training, they can just shadow a person who is already in the class. For example, Maya's been through it, if I was completely new I would have been sent to Maya just to shadow maybe an hour or so that could give me an idea how to do things. I could just shadow her to give me confidence and when I go back to my class I could just start and I'll be OK.

Back to Maya, we asked about the value of the programme to learners:

Some (learners) they just love this course and when they finish it they want more. They want to know if there is a next level. It's practical, it's daily life, it's go out through the door and you use it. It changes people's life … this is about confidence, it increases your confidence a lot even as a volunteer trainer, it increases the learners' confidence and it changes their lives.

The doors are opening to them and they can see opportunities, they can see how to get on the bus and go to town. They can go and sit on the train and go from A to B. I believe in it so much, that's why I am dedicating my time to it. Normally, I don't really volunteer, I'm not like that! But this is so worthy, when you see the look on peoples' faces and how you improved their life ...