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Higher English for Afghan refugees

When Afghan refugees started arriving in the United States in large numbers last year, some of those at the English Language Program (ELP) at Virginia Commonwealth University wondered how they could best help those who had arrived in their community.

“We had a lot of discussions about resources for Afghan students, how to help them get to a university, apply to an academic programme and how to help them learn English,” associate director of ELP, Moe Debbagh Greene, PhD, told VCU News. “We were thinking about using our resources and what we do best to contribute to that community.” 

As reported in VCU News, they knew there were plenty of introductory English classes, but there wasn’t much for those at an intermediary level who wanted to become more skilled and be able to better settle into their new country. 

“Our programme is geared toward students who are trying to improve their academic and professional skills,” ELP’s admissions coordinator, Rachel Aziz, says. “This is something that is unique to us that we can offer to this specific segment of the refugee population.”

ELP came up with a course called English for University Success, which concentrates on conversation rather than writing or reading. It’s offered free online and so far 11 people have taken advantage of it. 

“Teaching them to have confidence in their deliveries is key and to understand that their voice is important,” says Leslie Lamers, who teaches the class. “To be able to speak up in the classroom and tell their stories well gives them more confidence when they go out into the workplace.”

Image courtesy of Wahyu Astungkara from Pixabay
Liz Granirer
Liz Granirer
Liz has been a journalist for many years. She is currently editor of EL Gazette and has previously edited the magazines Young Performer, StepForward and Accounting Technician; been deputy editor on Right Start magazine; chief sub editor on Country Homes & Interiors; and sub editor on easyJet Traveller, Lonely Planet and Family Traveller magazines, along with a number of others.
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