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Last on

Wed 9 Jan 2013 11:00 BBC Radio 4

28 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 09 January 2013

Bobby Friction talks to adults who are learning English from scratch in the UK. Many of them are immigrants or refugees from different communities and countries who arrive with little English and quickly have to adapt.

How did they feel living in a country where they were unable to communicate? How did they deal with everyday situations like getting on a bus, shopping, going to a school or visiting a doctor? And how did they learn English - both formally and informally? We find a network of unofficial 'translators' in operation helping people get by. We speak to people who have been here for over 40 years as well as those who have recently arrived.

What English course provisions are there for people eager to enhance their language skills? We discover the challenges in funding English courses. And how is the necessity of learning English for the citizenship test changing the experience of people arriving in this country?

Bobby visits the Sparkhill Adult Education Centre in Birmingham and speaks to teachers and pupils learning English through ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages). He also discovers a community on the Soho Road in Birmingham which exists perfectly happily, running businesses and contributing to society while speaking very little English.

We visit the Chinese community of Manchester where the women in particular struggle with communication. We also meet a group of Eastern European supermarket distribution workers in Hertfordshire who are being taught English by their employer.

The programme also contains interviews with The Migrants' Rights Network and the Refugee Council.

Producer: Laura Parfitt
A White Pebble Media production for BBC Radio 4.


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