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Honouring Bilingual Assistants

Wednesday February 20, 2008

Honouring Bilingual Assistants on International Mother Language Day.

Former refugees who provide vital support to help more recent arrivals learn literacy skills are to be honoured by ESOL Home Tutors on International Mother Language Day.

ESOL Home Tutors employs 14 former refugees across the country as Bilingual Assistants who support tutors running ESOL-literacy classes for people who have never learnt to read or write, even in their first language.

The specialist national programme is believed to be unique in its provision in New Zealand.

Presentations will be made to assistants on each of the ESOL-literacy programmes in South and West Auckland, Waikato, Hutt, Porirua and Christchurch, on February 21 to mark International Mother Language day.

ESOL Home Tutors’ Programmes Manager Dorothy Thwaite said the 14 assistants, who all speak fluent English as well as one or more other languages, were currently helping 330 learners, mainly refugees, across the country.

“In most cases the people they are working with have never had the chance to go to school and are not literate in their first language,” said Dorothy.

“They are learning English language as well as literacy, which is extremely hard to do as an adult.

“The Bilingual Assistants are absolutely vital to the work that we do in many ways. This includes reducing learners’ anxieties, helping to motivate them and acting as interpreters both of learning and concept – explaining concepts which are totally new to their students, such as aspects of New Zealand culture and the value we place on literacy.

“The skills they pass on give people independence in so many ways and, as this is also the UN International Year of Languages, we felt it was very appropriate to recognise the work that they do.”

ESOL Home Tutors is New Zealand’s largest settlement agency. Its 200 staff and 3,000 volunteers are working with 6,000 refugees and migrant adult learners in 23 New Zealand locations.

The organisation provides a range of voluntary and paid one to one, group English language tuition and settlement support services.

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