Claiming pre-paid English classes
As part of her residency agreement, Yung Song was required to pre-purchase English-language tuition through Immigration New Zealand.
Like a number of such migrants however, she did not immediately claim her lessons, and although she missed the allotted time period of five years in which to sign up, she has been granted an extension.
She now meets regularly with a qualified English-language teacher through English Language Partners, one of the approved providers of English for Migrants programmes.
‘‘I like the flexibility of the classes,’’ Yung Song, who works from home says. The classes are one-on-one, which means they can take place at any time that suits the student and the teacher.
Yung Song’s teacher, Gail Berrysmith, a qualified ESOL teacher with 16 years teaching experience, comes to her home in the middle of the day, while Yung Song is taking a break from her work and before her daughter arrives home from school.
Making English-language lessons accessible matters to Gail. Most often she meets her students in their own home, although she will also meet in a workplace or other similar location if the student prefers. ‘‘I once taught someone in her own cafe,’’ she says. ‘‘I would come in during the quiet time, and we would meet at a table near the back.’’
Gail sees her job as more than just teaching English. ‘‘It is about helping people settle into a new country and understand the Kiwi way of life without giving up their own culture or language. I regularly ask my students if they have any questions,’’ she adds. ‘‘I’m always trying to make it applicable.’’
Over the years Gail has helped her students with many little things that make a big difference, such as understanding school notices and reports, reading official mail and even compiling CVs.
‘‘I’ve had Korean, Indian, Sri Lankan and Russian students,’’ she says. ‘‘Often, but not always, they’re mothers at home. I try to teach each one what they need most to help them in their daily life. Being oneto-one classes, I can plan the lessons at exactly each student’s level. It’s a confidence-building thing. I want my students to feel comfortable
making mistakes and knowing they’re not being judged. With Yung Song, I focus a great deal on pronunciation and intonation because she knows a lot but her shyness with speaking holds her back.’’
‘‘I was nervous at first,’’ Yung Song adds, ‘‘but now it’s okay. I’ve learned pronunciation, speaking, listening, grammar and about New Zealand.’’
‘‘I think quite a bond develops between student and tutor,’’ Gail says. ‘‘I’ve caught up with many of my students after the classes have finished. Some call just to touch base.’’
At the moment, Gail is teaching Yung Song four times a week because this suits Yung Song’s plans. Usually, however, Gail teaches each student for two two-hour sessions per week. With some students she takes a break during the school holidays so they can take care of their children.
Like English Language Partner’s other teachers, Gail tutors each student in 30 to 50 hour ‘‘biteable bits’’, or contracts. Students can have as many contracts as the amount of money they have paid the government covers. Migrants who arrived with very little English are likely to have pre-paid for more tuition than those who arrived with a higher level.
Once paid to Immigration New Zealand, the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) holds the money for the students. Organisations such as English Language Partners help students with the necessary paperwork to make use of their funds. Last year, English Language Partners provided 134 English for Migrants contracts to students across New Zealand. They have 23 regional offices, including four across greater Auckland, allowing for staff to get to know each student’s needs and so assign him or her a suitable teacher.
Once a student has received all the classes he or she is eligible for through the English for Migrants programme, there are other options for continuing learning.
English Language Partners also conduct free Eng- lish for Employees classes tailored to the particular needs of people in different workplaces, as well as twice weekly low cost community English-language classes.
English Language Partners provide free one-toone home tutoring with volunteer tutors for migrants or refugees in need of lessons who are unable to go to classes or require extra support.
Language help: Korean immigrant Yung Song Kim receiving the English-language classes she paid for when she came to New Zealand. Pictured with her is her tutor Gail Berrysmith from English Language Partners.