Colleges in the district are taking part in a new scheme that could help integrate Bradford’s non-English speakers into the wider community.
Shipley College, Bradford College, Craven College and Forster College are among a consortium of schools, training providers and community centres that have been part of a winning bid by Manchester City Council in a Government-launched competition to come up with “innovative” new methods of teaching English.
Called Talk English, the project will see non-English speakers learn the language not in classrooms, but through their day-to-day lives.
Shopkeepers, businesses and supermarket staff will be asked to be “sympathetic listeners” to help people practice English in real-life situations, while volunteers will meet with those involved on a weekly basis to encourage them to open up to speaking the language.
The project, based in Manchester, Yorkshire and Lancashire, was one of six that have been awarded a share of £6 million by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to encourage all communities to adopt English as a first language.
It will train volunteers, known as Talk English Friends, from within the community to act as mentors. The volunteers will help participants to develop language skills and confidence, encouraging them to access English classes, local amenities and project-supported social events.
And businesses will get involved by having members of staff clearly identifiable as sympathetic listeners to encourage people to speak English when out shopping.
Diana Bird, of Shipley College, said: “This is great news. We are looking forward to helping facilitate this engagement with residents who are most isolated due to their lack of English language skills.”
Other groups involved in delivering the project are QED, Millan Centre, Safety First, WomenZone, Glossa and Holme Christian Community. The group is now looking for volunteers to help make the scheme a reality.
One organisation that is already involved is housing provider Incommunities. Director Steve Short said: “We are delighted to be supporting this project which will help people remove barriers and improve their life chances.”
Mr Pickles, a former leader of Bradford Council, believes the project will lead to long term savings on English tuition and interpreter services.
When awarding the funding, he said: “Speaking English is crucial to allow us to come together and be part of British society. People are unable to do this and are condemned to a limited life if they can’t speak our language.”
The funding lasts until June 2015.