You know, being born in a country like Australia gave me the opportunity to learn using a language that is so familiar to me. It wasn’t always like this for me having started Primary School with no English language skills. I still managed to “find my way around” the school and its many environments. But what is it like for an adult, who comes to a new country and has no English understanding. This past week has seen two people I know start English classes. My amazing brother in law is the first and the other is my neighbour, a family man who lives in my street and has come to Australia, with his young family, as a recognised refugee.These are two men, who have left their families, a life they are familiar with and the security of their first language to come to a country which has its own distinct colourful culture and language.
Speaking to both these gentlemen, after only two English classes, and you can see why I admire these “Inspirational Learners”. They are going back to basics in language: counting; recognising days of the week; learning alphabet letters and so on. These are both capable men who had careers in their own countries. Men who supported extended families and they are now “starting from scratch”. What makes them inspirational is the smile that they use to tell me about their day at “school”. They laugh at their accent when reading their new found knowledge; they proudly repeat newly formed words; and they use it in context.
Every time I hear a word come from their mouth, which clearly is newly learnt, it makes me take a deep breath and recognise that lifelong learning is not always a progression from a particular point along some continuum of learning but that it may take you back to an initial stage of learning and requires you to “start again”.
Upon seeing their blackline masters for the letters of the alphabet; looking at their neatly formed handwriting and seeing the grade “Good” written on the bottom of the page makes these two men “inspirational”. They pull out one stencil after another from their bag with so much pride and self encouragement. Each paper they show me is a step closer to their “new life”.
I write this post as a Masters Student at university but the respect and admiration I have for these two men, as learners who are going back to basics within the new country they now reside in, is exponential!
Finally, I saw my neighbour tonight, after Day 2 at English Classes. He greeted me at the door with his brand new T’shirt with an oversized Australian flag on it.He said it is now his favourite shirt…..makes me so emotional and proud! This is a man who came from a country where his home was bombed, his son shot in the eye and trying to raise a teenage daughter who is completely dependant for physical and cognitive support.
I may not have the “academic” definition of inspirational leaners but I sure as cookies reckon these two men define it perfectly!