The Linguist

The Linguist 54,1

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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10 The Linguist FEBRUARY/MARCH Raymonde Sneddon and Luljeta Nuzi report on a community-driven approach to language learning T he Albanian-speaking community organisation, Shpresa Programme, was set up in 2003 to meet the needs of the community of Albanians, Kosovans and Macedonians living in East London. There are an estimated 70,000 Albanian speakers in the UK, the majority resident in London. The greatest single influx was in 2000, when some 20,000 Kosovan refugees came following the 1999 war. They had had no plans to emigrate, spoke no English, and had no relations or contacts in the UK – a sanctuary that had been chosen largely by the UK government in liaison with other EU and interested countries. The Shpresa Programme arose from the immediate needs of these refugees: how to navigate, survive and integrate into this new society. A high priority was for adults and young people to learn English, but it soon became evident that there was also a pressing need for young Kosovans to learn, or continue learning, their mother tongue. The UK Albanian-speaking community began to address this issue with support from national and local migrant and children's organisations. However, it soon became clear that a local Albanian-speaking organisation was required, not least to maximise the voluntary capacity of the community to help itself. Hence Shpresa, meaning 'hope', was born in the London borough of Newham. Ten years later, we now run four main projects for children, youth, women and resettlement – the last developing participants' skills and deploying them as volunteers in the community, as well as providing training to help them get jobs. Recently, the organisation has taken on the responsibility of welcoming and settling asylum-seeking minors arriving unaccompanied from Albania, as well as supporting women and families facing domestic violence. The need to teach Albanian For new migrants who arrive in the UK, the first priority is how to survive in an unfamiliar environment. They are keen for their children to learn English as quickly as possible and do not imagine that children will lose the use of the family language once they start school. It is when they realise that family communication is at risk that parents look for language classes to reverse the damage. 1 This has been at the heart of Shpresa's work, leading us to create a network of complementary schools where parents can share their experiences, support each other, maintain the use of the family language, and learn to support their children in the English education system. The model we developed engages directly with the mainstream school system and impacts on the wider community. We approached schools with substantial numbers of ethnic Albanian children and offered a partnership: in exchange for free use of the premises for Albanian language classes and cultural activities, Shpresa provides information for mainstream teachers on how to meet the needs of migrant children, as well as workshops for parents and children. We also run a substantial programme of accredited training for Teaching Assistants, who are then deployed in partner schools as volunteers. Workshops inform parents about the English education system and curriculum, and offer them advice on how to engage with teachers to support their children's learning at home. For children, there are Albanian folk The perfect partnership

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