Help for migrants to learn the language
NO MATTER where you come from or where you choose to migrate, learning the local language is key to settling into your new home and feeling like you belong to the wider community.
Recognising this, Harbourside Presbyterian Church opened the doors to its English as a second language class five years ago.
The Tuesday evening class, which has proven invaluable to many newcomers to the Coffs Coast, is so popular the church is adding a weekly class on Monday mornings to meet demand.
Program leader Hugo Vandenbos came to Australia from the Netherlands in the 1960s with a minimal understanding of English.
"I know from personal experience how important it is for migrants to acquire a reasonable proficiency in the language of their adopted country as quickly as possible,” Mr Vandenbos said.
"Over the past four years, I estimate we've had students from up to 30 countries, including north and central Africa, the Middle East, South-East Asia, Central America and western Europe.”
Mr Vandenbos said the focus of the church's ESL program was on "conversational English” with the aim of helping new arrivals to Australia participate on a day-to-day basis in the local community.
The Tuesday evening class is ideal for those working or studying during the day, while it is anticipated the new Monday morning class will make it easier for those with difficulty travelling at night to attend a class.
The Monday class will offer a creche staffed by suitably qualified volunteers so parents with young children will be able to attend.