English language Factsheet

The facts:
Refugees involved in Time Together speak varying levels of English.  Courses in English as a Second Language are available for asylum seekers and refugees.  These are known as ESOL courses (English for Speakers of Other Languages), and are taught in colleges, community centres and training centres.  Courses are usually low or free and some organisations cover childcare and/or transport costs. 

ESOL is taught to a variety of different standards (from Foundation level to the Cambridge Proficiency exam, for example) and may also be combined with other courses including Leisure and Tourism, Information Technology or Business. 
International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a language assessment recognised internationally and used by the majority of Further and Higher Education institutions and professional bodies in the UK, including the General Medical Council.  IELTS preparation is taught in many colleges and more information is available on the official website (see below). 

Potential issues and ways to work through them:
Choosing a course
Mentees who are already attending ESOL courses can speak with their tutors for advice on appropriate ways forward.  Mentors who are supporting mentees in accessing a course, should try contacting the local college first and also look at resources such as Hot Courses and Floodlight, which contain lists of all adult education courses available in London (accessible online or through printed versions available at Time Together).

Opportunities for practice
ESOL classes are usually one of the main sources of English language learning. Mentors and mentees should talk together about what would best help the mentee practise English and become confident in it. Some people will find that simply being given the opportunity to regularly practise speaking English is very helpful; others will value being able to get used to different voices and accents, use English in different contexts or having someone to check their homework or coursework.  These are some suggestions that have worked for other pairs:

• reading and discussing articles or newspapers
• shopping together and checking new words in a practical way
• keeping a vocabulary book
• watching a film with subtitles
• translating the lyrics of a favourite song
• signposting to Time Together’s English classes (free and run by mentors) 
• starting a volunteer placement (see separate Volunteering Factsheet)
• just meeting regularly for a chat!

Specialist vocabulary
Many refugees work in professions which require specialist vocabulary not always taught in ESOL classes.  Keep a specialist vocabulary book together: find trade journals or documentaries on the specific profession you can look at together and discuss afterwards. 

Access to materials
Libraries are an excellent source of resources for language learning, frequently offering CD Roms, videos, cassettes, Internet access as well as printed materials.  Finances permitting, Grant and Cutler and LCL International Ltd sell a wide range of dictionaries, foreign language literature and bilingual texts.  See The Network’s website for a list of suppliers of ethnic minority and community language materials.  .

Useful Contacts

You can get free advice, information and materials from the Refugee Council, local Learning and Skills Council (LSC) or other organisations listed below:

International English Language Testing System:

Hot Courses:


Grant and Cutler:
www.grantandcutler.com - world’s largest foreign bookseller.

LCL International Ltd:
www.lclib.com/ - international language book sellers

The Network:

British Council:
www.britishcouncil.org - contains a section on learning English including lots of tips on grammar.

BBC World Service:
www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/index.shtml - BBC world service provides a learning English section containing information on language and grammar and also many interactive exercises to help practice language skills.

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