Free english course helping immigrants feel less 'isolated'

A free weekly english class at a Christchurch church is helping 100 international residents feel less "isolated and disconnected from society".

The class, held every Tuesday at the Oxford Terrace Baptist Church, started in February and aims to help people who are struggling to speak english learn and practice with others in a similar position.

Jane Cong Ye organises the classes and said it is a place for the students to feel safe and heard.

"Lots of immigrants, they've been here for a long time but because of their english deficiency, they are isolated and disconnected from society.

"So their lives are very tough here so we just want to help."

A range of people, spanning more than 25 nationalities, have attended the programme over the last few months.

They have many different reasons for wanting to improve their english skills.

Student Merry Huang said she felt she must learn the language to fit in.

"I came for the reunion with my husband and my kids and they have a very good understanding of New Zealand here and I need to too."

The classes are taught by experienced english teachers and volunteers from the church.

They teach the students using resources like music and worksheets.

Jose Donojo has attended every class so far and said they have given him tools to better express himself.

"I always said I'm good but now I say I'm marvellous."

The students separate into groups during the two-hour sessions to allow classes to cover beginners through to advanced speakers.

This ensures everyone has the opportunity to practice and be heard while not being overwhelmed.

Student Harvey Chen believes the classes have grown his confidence.

"After coming here, I found my courage and not afraid of making mistakes. That's why I can speak more and more fluently."

The organisers believe the classes have made a meaningful improvement for the students, helping them feel more comfortable in their daily lives around the city.

- By Emily O'Hagan, made with the support of NZ On Air