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ESOL Provision in the UK and Ireland: Challenges and Opportunities

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Edited By Freda Mishan

Situated within the context of unprecedented levels of inward migration to the UK and Ireland bringing with it all the complexities of integration, this volume focuses on a key aspect of this - language provision. Through the voices of stakeholders in the field of teaching English to speakers of other languages (ESOL), this volume critically examines models of language provision and integration, the relationship between language and identity, developing ESOL practices and ESOL policy. A distinctive feature is the diversity of contributions, ranging from research studies to vignettes presenting living portraits of ESOL practice on the ground. The volume fills an urgent gap in this area, offering a snapshot of the ‘state of the art’ of ESOL in the UK and Ireland and projections of how the needs of new migrants can be addressed into the future.

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Introduction: The ESOL landscape of the UK and Ireland (Freda Mishan)

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Freda Mishan

Introduction The ESOL landscape of the UK and Ireland

She is a typical Spanish-speaking immigrant doing a typical low paid low-status job in London. Two jobs in fact. She cleans part-time during the week and sets and clears tables in a restaurant at the weekends. All the students are cleaners or caretakers. Somehow she manages to come to my and a co-class twice a week in order to improve her English. And somehow she is always smiling, always eager-eyed, dressed carefully and hides well the fact that she must be very, very tired. We were talking about the word ‘feel’ at the end of a session. We discussed feel as touch and feel as emotion: nothing too complex – this is a beginners’ English class – but giving them an idea of its uses. I called tea-break. As she left she stopped and asked ‘Can I say, then, I feel God in my heart?’ I caught my breath. ‘Yes’ I said, ‘Yes, that’s wonderful – that’s exactly right. You feel God in your heart’.1

In writing about learners of ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), the individual can easily get lost in the statistics. Approximately 625,000 immigrants arrived in the UK in 20182 and 90,300 in the Republic of Ireland,3 numbers that will continue to rise in the short term at least, given current geopolitical instability. One of the guiding principles of this volume is to foreground the individual learner...

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