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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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Vignette 5. 2012–2013: ESOL and superdiversity in Birmingham, UK (Philippa Grimes)

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Philippa Grimes

Vignette 52012–2013: ESOL and superdiversity in Birmingham, UK

For some years, I taught English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in the Birmingham inner-city areas of Sparkbrook and Small Heath to adults from South Asia and the Yemen. In Birmingham, these communities are fairly settled, with some of the families having roots in this city going back as far as the 1920s. I began to hear Birmingham spoken of as a ‘superdiverse’ city but did not have personal experience of this until a re-organisation at work caused me to start teaching in nearby Bordesley Green, an inner-city area adjoining Small Heath.

In September 2012, when I met one of my new classes, I immediately noticed the ethnic diversity. This class of seventeen people contained both male and female students from ten different countries: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, China, Guinea Bissau, Kuwait, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Between them, they were fluent in at least fourteen languages: Arabic, Bengali, Dutch, French, Kurmanji Kurdish, Mandarin, Mandinka, Pashto, Punjabi, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Sylhetti and Urdu.

Some of the students had come to the UK for marriage, others for work or to escape persecution. Some, but not all, adhered to various strands of Islam. Between them, the students had little in common, apart from all wanting to improve their English language skills. I found that this made it difficult to build amongst them a sense of loyalty to their classmates, and to find...

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