New term announced!

We’ve worked hard over the summer and are pleased to announce the classes for our new term! Registration will open on the 7th of September so watch this space.

Languages

Continuing from last year, we have our key Arabic and Hebrew classes. These will be joined by two sparkly new courses: Latin American Spanish and a Yiddish singing workshop! For all the standard language courses (Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish) multiple levels will be available – classes will be formed on the basis of the levels of the people signing up.

Provisional venues and times (more precise details will be released on the 7th with the registration link):
-Hebrew: Sunday evening, East London venue
-Yiddish choir: Monday evening, East London venue
-Arabic: tbc
-Latin American Spanish: tbc

Term dates

The new term will start on the week of the 26th of September. Unlike last year, this time we are piloting a new 6-month term model: we just think three months is not enough! So for all standard language courses the term will go from the week of the 26th of September to the week of the 12th of December (12 weeks), then a three week break, then it will start again on the 9th of January until the 27th of March (another 12 weeks). The Yiddish singing workshop will run for 10 weeks.

Cost

Exactly like last year, we have a sliding scale policy: standard price is £10 per 2-hour class, if you want to help us out a bit more it’s £15/class, and if you are really broke you can come for £5! The money you pay for the classes goes not only to pay for your lovely teachers and our venues (including great projects such as the Common House (www.commonhouse.org.uk), but also to subsidise our free ESOL (English) classes for refugees / migrants / asylum seekers / anyone who wants to learn English whatever piece of paper they have or don’t have. This year we’re planning on continuing our two classes at Praxis (www.praxis.org.uk), which last year were very popular and always oversubscribed. We’d also love to expand our provision for the residents of initial accommodation centres for asylum seekers, serving two venues in South London rather than just one. But to do all this we need enough paying students! So pick a language and come learn with us, and tell your friends🙂

Get our amazing end of year report

It’s amazing how quickly a year goes by.

Only this time last year a few friends sat round with nothing but an idea: a language school that people actually wanted to go to. A place where newcomers to London could learn English their own way without fear of judgement and talk about the things really going on in their lives. A school where people could connect with the languages of their ancestors like Yiddish, Hebrew and Arabic in a way that felt modern and revolutionary. A place where activists could learn sign language.

It needed to exist. So we made it happen. You made it happen.

In our end of year report, we cover what the school’s done, who we are, how we’ve spent money, how we’ve made people’s lives better.

From here, the main thing we want to do is grow. We’ve had such a fantastic year and we want to see this school get even bigger, bring in more people, help more people make new friends and expand more minds. If you’d like to be a part of this, or know somebody who would, or you just want to see what we’ve been doing, email babelsblessing@gmail.com to get your free copy of our report.

 

Babel’s Blessing is one year old!

A massive thank you to everyone who came to our end-of-year party – and to everyone who has ever come to a class or an event, has taught or has helped us with admin, for making Babels happen! We are now one year old🙂 Our classes have now come to a close, and we will spend the summer planning and scheming for next year – we have lots of surprises in store… Our next term should start in late September. See you then!

End-of-year party!

Dear Babels’ students past and present, friends near and far – as our third term comes to a close, we would like to invite you to our end-of-year party on Sunday 10th July. Babel’s was set up in early July 2015, so this gathering also marks our first year of action – come and celebrate our birthday with us! And in this time of pain and fear, we want to come together to celebrate our community, support each other, and create links to keep struggling for a different world.

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We will be at Bethnal Green Gardens (just behind Bethnal Green Underground Station) from 6pm to 8pm. There will be music, snacks, and the chance to meet the students and teachers from all our classes. In case of rain we will move to Common House, 5 minutes away, in 5 Punderson Gardens.

Whether you’ve attended one of our classes, or you’ve heard of us but have never been involved, we’re looking forward to seeing you there. Children most welcome, and bring your friends!

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/164788577269046/

Refugee week

It’s refugee week!

We celebrated with the residents of the initial accommodation centre where we teach. If you want to know more about the centre and what we do there, check out this other post. Today, as part of the refugee week activities, we handed out lots of free books to adults and children – but the kids were definitely the most enthusiastic! Many of them aren’t able to go to school for several months while they are sent from centre to centre, so they’re well keen on any distraction or activity.

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Our book stall (with half of the books already gone after 5 minutes thanks to the kids’ enthusiasm)

We also met again with former residents of the centre and former students who have (finally) received status, and are now struggling with finding work and accommodation. Many job applications are sent back with the notorious question “are you from the UK/EU?”, and the JobCentre people keep pushing them to take jobs as cleaners whatever their professional or educational background is… So putting together a deposit for a room/flat becomes impossible, as refugees have only 28 days after they receive status to find a new place to stay. In fact, there’s a small group trying to address this problem by matching asylum seekers / refugees and people with a spare room, check them out!

 

 

Teaching and learning in an initial accommodation centre for asylum seekers

One of our English (ESOL) classes is in an initial accommodation centre for asylum seekers in South London. When destitute asylum seekers start their legal proceedings in the UK, they can be placed in initial accommodation. In theory they are supposed to stay here for about two weeks, but on average stay 4-6 weeks and many end up staying much longer than that. One of our students was in the initial accommodation centre for two and a half months and had no idea of why they hadn’t moved him yet. Residents’ lives are dictated by an obscure bureaucracy that determines when they are to leave.

In initial accommodation (I.A.), asylum seekers are not eligible for any provisions apart from healthcare, so our weekly class is the only opportunity they have to access ESOL (and it’s not enough). However, it is a very critical phase: leaving initial accommodation with even just a little more linguistic ease can make a significant difference to their confidence, ability to navigate/survive the system, and mental health.

The I.A.s are managed by private contractors (Serco, G4S and Clearel) that have little interest or incentive to provide anything beyond the legal minimum agreed in their tender. In 2014 the House of Commons ordered an investigation into the management of I.A.s after having received many complaints. Indeed, our I.A. is not a great place to live in. Most of the people staying here are families with young children. However, there are mice in nearly every room, living side by side babies and kids. There is no space for children to play: all available space is used for bedrooms and toilets (it’s a converted hostel). Indeed, we are very lucky to even have a room to teach in: the private contractors managing I.A.s are known to oppose the use of rooms for any non-mandatory services.

In terms of teaching, this means from one week to the next at least half – if not all – of our students change. There is no way of knowing how many students will come until half-way through the lesson, and we have to assess their levels on the spot. We’ve taught students from a variety of backgrounds and ages (6-86!). All this in one small room. Quite a challenge… However, migrants and refugees are increasingly forced to move from temporary centre to temporary centre, so we thought that there was much to gain from learning how to run a class in such a setting.

We’ve learned that using a participatory approach is key: getting students to tell us what they want to do allows us to give them relevant and level-appropriate material even when we’ve just met them, and having students support each other across levels is always very productive. We’ve also built a culture a of “light feedback” in our classes so that students can always tell us what worked and what didn’t work – though what a certain group enjoyed is not necessarily the same as what the next group of students will want!


Our students say:

In the London House there are many toilets, 1 dining room. People in London house have really tough lives. Some people are happy because they have friends who are from the same country. A lot of people here are Albanian.

Hello to those who they don’t know where London House is, There is a place called London house where a large number of asylum seekers live. Most of them can not speak English even single word. For example there is a Chinese gentleman called Shenli live next to me who he can’t speak English very well but he seems an intelligent guy who he is trying to learn English and he will appreciate it you care about people like him and know them as existing human beings who they are new in this country and they need people like you to help them. So I think the best advise for you is “moving your ass” and coming here to see “what the hell is going on in London house?”

I have been here for nearly one week and this is the first time I’m joining english classes. There are plenty of people in London House who need to learn english language. Learning english will help us to feeling much better.

London house is an interesting place. Where it gather different types of people from around the world. Like any place London house have the good things and the bad things. I am going to mention some of those hoping to be solved in the future. All the employees in London house are friendly + always offer help to others in smily manner. The rooms are always clean+ tidy and blankets are clean. The health team are amazing to but they need more space. The main problem in London house is that its physical appearance is like that of a Church. The look of church may let others generate wrong opinion on first sight. But after going in and knowing what it really is they will feel better.

[Note: We have changed the name of the centre in people’s accounts to ‘London House’.]

Help us plan Babel’s Blessing second year!

We’re planning our next year at Babel’s Blessing, starting again in September. We’re thinking of adding some new languages and assessing whether to continue all of the current ones. Tell us what you’d like to learn in the survey below. It won’t take more than five minutes.

The paid-for classes will continue to fund our free ESOL classes for refugees and migrants, which we would like to expand – but we can only do that if we get more paying students! So, please complete the survey and share it with your friends.

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/RXCVK9J

Thank you!🙂

Teacher training course – an update

Last December, we launched a crowdfunding campaign to set up a special course to train some of our students to become language teachers themselves – https://chuffed.org/project/participatory-esol-teacher-training-for-migrants-refugees. We received all the funding we needed (thank you!) and were able to run the course over 12 weeks. We had students from various countries – including Chile, Palestine, Syria, Congo, and Romania – and with different levels of experience. Three of the students are now teaching their own classes for us and have joined our organising team.

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This is what the students had to say about the course:

The way of teaching was perfect Adela was gave us the information and we try to figure out how is the way of teach. I learnd a new way how to teach .

This was a fantastic and enjoyable class, this class helped me to became more confidence in teaching i also discover my strengths and weaknesses. It helped me to improved my knowledge.

I would like to express my gratitude for giving me the chance to take this interesting course. The teacher training course qualified me to teach Arabic language course to students of different ages and backgrounds. The activities and teaching methods that I received/engaged in in the teacher training class were useful even in the Arabic language course. I had a lot of fun, knowledge and training.

I think the development of the language and expression´s skills is the base for the construction of a better world, so, I thank the opportunity of learn english here (In Babel Blessing) where is very important the inclusion and the collective work between teachers and students, in this manner, with your donation you are important part of a new better world, thanks!!

Registrations open for term 3!

We are very excited to announce that registrations are now open for term 3!

You can sign up for one (or more) of these fabulous classes:

Term 3 will run from 11th April to 7th July. Registration will be open until the beginning of term. However we keep our classes quite small and it’s first come first served, so book your place quick!

The money you pay to attend the evening classes allows us to run our free English classes for migrants & refugees. Since we started teaching last September, we have been inundated with requests for English classes and we have been expanding our provision: at the Praxis Centre for migrants & refugees we have opened a second (and already oversubscribed) class, and next term we are planning to open a second class in an initial accommodation centre for asylum seekers. We can only do this with your support – so come take that language class you always meant to do, and spread the word!