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Celebrating one year of teaching English to Ukrainian refugees at USW

THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH WALES is marking one year of delivering English language lessons to Ukrainian refugees who have resettled in the local community.

Since May 17, 2022, tutors at USW’s Centre for International English, as well as student ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teachers have been hosting weekly lessons to groups of refugees who have fled the war in Ukraine.

The learners have also enjoyed walking trips to Senedd Cymru/Welsh Parliament, Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park and the Gower coastline, with a trip to London planned for next month.

While some students would have learned a small amount of English at school in Ukraine, others spoke no English at all before joining the USW lessons, and have benefited from the opportunity to become more integrated into their new communities in South Wales.

Eugene, who started English lessons at USW in September last year, enjoys playing games as a way of learning conversational English. He said: “I had never learned English in my life before coming here. Now I attend two lessons every week and I have learned so much. We even have debates in the classroom now, and the lessons have helped me to make lots of new friends. I’m very grateful.”

Olena, who arrived in South Wales just a few months ago and attends weekly lessons at USW, added: “The teachers are very patient with us and give us many opportunities to practice speaking English with people from the local area. The lessons are very useful to learn new vocabulary and help us when we need to ask for things in the community. Thank you, USW!”

Dr Mike Chick, an ESOL lecturer and USW’s Refugee Champion, said: “Meeting the Ukrainians has opened the student teachers’ minds to the need to support refugees, and provided an opportunity to undertake real-life language teaching.

“Events such as the walking trips are crucial in providing an opportunity for real language use and to create a sense of belonging with their new communities.”

Gunita Sapa, one of the International English tutors who has been working with the refugees since their arrival, said: “This has been an amazing opportunity to teach such a diverse, inspiring and lovely group of Ukrainian refugees for the past year.

“By teaching the English language through conversations on a range of topics, we have bonded, laughed and had a wonderful time overall. It has definitely been one of the highlights of my teaching career so far.”

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Peter Squires, another of the International English tutors who has taught the refugees since May last year, added: “English lessons are so important as a first step to feel included in a new community, especially in circumstances as awful as these refugees have experienced.

“Attending lessons and developing new vocabulary means that they can build the confidence to speak English and gain new skills, allowing them to make friends, become more independent and take part in activities they enjoy. It has been a pleasure to have been part of their learning and to see them progress.”