A year on from its launch a unique Manchester based scheme that has helped more than 5000 learners across Greater Manchester and parts of West Yorkshire and Lancashire learn how to speak English has been given a special award by the British Council.
The scheme, #Talk English, focuses on making English language leaning more effective by taking it out of the traditional classroom setting and into the community.
So successful has the scheme been that the British Council last week awarded it a prestigious ELTon award for local innovation at a ceremony held in London and hosted by writer and presenter Angela Rippon OBE. The annual awards are the only international awards to recognise innovative achievement in English Language Teaching (ELT) globally and celebrate innovation and excellence in ELT from around the world.
One aspect of the scheme involves training staff from local businesses and services, including shops, libraries and housing providers, as ‘sympathetic’ listeners to encourage people who are learning English to try out their developing language skills as they go about their daily life.
The scheme also involves a network of ‘Talk English Friends’ and volunteer teachers, who receive training and support to help English language learners. With support from the volunteers, learners attend informal classes and take part in activities which could be anything from shopping or exercise classes, to a trip to the park, local library or museum – all with a view to building the learner’s confidence in social situations, and improving their language skills at the same time.
The scheme’s success has been praised by Councillor Sue Murphy, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council and lead member for Employment and Skills. She said: “Manchester has long been home to people of many different nationalities, and it’s this richly diverse cultural mix of people that makes it the vibrant and energetic place it is today.
“Helping people from different backgrounds communicate with each other builds communities. At the same time acquiring better language skills helps individuals lead fulfilling, useful and happy lives.
“#TalkEnglish is about making the everyday understandable to non native speakers of English. Learners benefit as they grow in confidence and find it easier to make friends and find work and generally to get on with their lives.”
More than 600 English language learners and volunteers came together last week to celebrate the scheme’s success at a special event held at Manchester Cathedral.