Many of us can relate to the frustration of not being understood, and not understanding others, whether travelling to foreign countries on holiday, or business. It can leave us feeling isolated, affect our confidence, and prevent us from fully engaging with the rich culture and heritage of the country in which we find ourselves. For New Glaswegians, this can be particularly true. Many of the displaced people that Adam and I work with can struggle to communicate and make themselves understood. Those who do have a good English base say “I thought I could speak English before I came to Glasgow”, and the truth is that they can, but the reality is that regional accents can become a barrier to communication.

At Glasgow City Mission, we have been offering differentiated community ESOL classes for a number of years, led by a talented and dedicated team of volunteers. The classes are accessible and fun for participants, offering an opportunity to express themselves, tell their stories and gain knowledge about their new city and country, as well as Scottish culture and heritage. Our volunteers work incredibly hard to ensure that the topics and lessons they deliver are engaging and relevant to the lives of the people we work with.

Since Covid-19 restrictions meant that we could no longer meet in person, our volunteers have been innovative in the lessons that they deliver online to our guests. It has been so exciting to see new guests join us and our community here at Glasgow City Mission. Adam and I have been blown away by the creative ideas that our volunteers have had, even roping in their spouses for activities such as teaching verbs via soup making, nouns via fashion shows and outdoor activities.

We cannot underestimate the value and importance of community ESOL classes for New Glaswegians, as they navigate life in a new country, in a new language often spoken at 100 miles an hour! This week, as we celebrate the contribution that refugees make to our communities, we also want to celebrate the volunteers who devote their time to planning, preparing and delivering ESOL classes that help our New Glaswegian community navigate their new life in Glasgow. Thank you!


Helen Russell

Women’s International Worker