Course helping break down language barriers for migrant women

When Lorna Brennan first began a casual get together with migrant women who wanted to improve their English she said you could hear a pin drop in the room.

Eighteen months later at the Buninyong School As Community Centre there's talking, laughter and children happily playing together.

Fifteen women were given certificates of attainment on Wednesday for completing a ten-week language course.

As a migrant herself, Ms Brennan said she knew only too well what it was like to move to a foreign country without knowing anyone.

"I came from Scotland so at least I spoke English and people could understand me. Mostly," she said.

Two years ago there was an influx of migrant women joining playgroup, Ms Brennan said. While the children would happily play together, she said she noticed the mothers would hang back.

From there the casual class was formed where the ladies could all talk together. After seeing it’s popularity, Ms Brennan contacted TAFE to see if an official English language class could be established.

Sabeen Abbas is one of the migrant women who signed up to improve her English.

Ms Abbas said she was hesitant when she first met Ms Brennan and was told about the group of women learning English together.

However after completing the ten week program, Ms Abbas said she would encourage others to take part.

"If you stay at home the language rusts. You need to practice like learning to drive," she said.

Ms Abbas said she had spent nine months in Sydney during her last stay in Australia but when she stopped using English she found it harder to pick it up again.

The women are predominately in Dubbo on temporary visas which means they don't qualify for the Adult Migrant English Program. Instead, Ms Brennan said she approached TAFE to help deliver the special English program.

While most of them already had a basic grasp of the English language, the program allowed them to learn slang words and common idioms. It was also a way for the women to improve their confidence.

As a lot of the women are mothers, Ms Brennan said meeting at the Buninyong School as Community Centre allowed them to bring along their children.

Having improved on their language skills, Ms Brennan said the next step was for some of the women to look into studying childcare. There were also members of the group who were studying to get their drivers licences.

The language courses would hopefully continue in the future, Ms Brennan said. Even on the last day of the course she said she had more women signing up.