Women migrants in Reading are keen to improve their English and learn more about health but do not have enough opportunities to practise language skills outside of lessons, according to a joint study by the University of Reading and the Reading Community Learning Centre (RCLC).
The research showed that the RCLC is a valuable charity for women from ethnic minority backgrounds, giving them the chance to learn English, make friends, and build up their confidence and wellbeing. But for some women, the free courses were the only opportunity they had to speak English.
“Neighbours are hard to get to know in Reading, so the main way that ethnic minority women can build cross-cultural relationships is through group attendance. The problem is that many groups are inaccessible to women due to language and cultural barriers, or due to cost and family demands, and special efforts are necessary in order to meet ethnic minorities half way,” said Dr Lorna Zischka from the University of Reading. “The women we interviewed were extremely keen to improve their English, which works much better if you have someone to talk to, but then how do you connect in the first place without knowing English?” she added.
Arab Muslim and Chinese women were the least likely to have connected across ethnic groups.
The study, which interviewed 114 women, also showed that South Asian women reported being the least confident and least healthy of all the different ethnic groups.
Some women told researchers they urgently needed better English to negotiate the health-care system, help their child in school or simply to be more confident in dealing with daily life.
Sarah del Tufo, chair of trustees at RCLC, said the report, funded by Comic Relief, “gives us, working with other organisations, a clear way ahead to respond better to the needs of minority ethnic women, as well as being a real affirmation of the valuable work of Reading Community Learning Centre”.
- Healthwatch Reading produces leaflets about its services in a variety of languages and can provide translators for non-English speakers to help resolve any NHS complaints.
44% of women said improving English was their main aim to achieve in the next five years
49% said they were interested in taking an English conversation course at the Reading Community Learning Centre (RCLC)
32% were interested in taking a Health course at the RCLC
51% had not shared food or drink with a person outside of their ethnic group recently