Humour is a common language

Emma leads WEA tutors in a large EU-funded ESOL project for refugees in Glasgow. When lockdown hit, Emma’s dedication kept the project alive and greatly enhanced the WEA's profile within the city and across Scotland. By maintaining a link during these last difficult few months with these ‘new Scots’, she has given them a voice and the opportunity to use it.

Our course helps these new Scots find their feet – and their voice too.

Our courses provide a bit of stability and fun for refugees during a stressful period of their lives. We teach students from all over the world about Scottish culture, as well as a few choice Glaswegian phrases, which they love, like saying aye instead of yes, or cheerio for goodbye. Even a couple of local dialect phrases can help make them feel at home. 

We keep things light-hearted. Humour is such a common bond across the world and crosses language barriers. We’ll teach words and phrases from real life – food, shopping, travel – things that they'll be able to put into practice.

When lockdown hit, my initial thought was how do we keep them learning? They were already isolated, so these courses were such a lifeline for them. Many lacked a basic understanding of technology, so it was a real challenge getting them set up on Zoom and Canvas. It took a lot of patience, and we've gotten better and better at doing that. 
Under project rules, the refugees couldn't start a class unless they had an initial language assessment, which was something we usually prepared for face-to-face. So I scrambled to find a number of guides in their languages to explain how to access Zoom. These were accompanied by lots of text messages of reassurance to get them prepared for their assessment. 

Again, it was a challenge, but so worthwhile. It’s just great working with them. It really is. We have great fun in the classes and I get to meet loads of interesting people. They are so keen to learn. 

These are the Scots of the future. Already, their children are speaking in local accents. As a nation, we’ve always brought in new cultures and peoples.

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