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Migrant workers mind their language

PUBLISHED: 17:41 25 June 2008 | UPDATED: 21:07 07 July 2010

MORE than a hundred eastern Europeans have been put on the path to overcoming the language barrier, thanks to a course tailored to the needs of migrant workers in Thetford.

MORE than a hundred eastern Europeans have been put on the path to overcoming the language barrier, thanks to a course tailored to the needs of migrant workers in Thetford.

A MEP has praised the efforts of tutors and learners from the GMB Union classes after helping Russian speakers in the town with their English over the last

18 months.

The course, run from the Timmy McLean Community Learning Centre at Thetford fire station every Saturday, was set up after migrant workers complained it was difficult to attend and learn the language at conventional adult education classes.

Bilingual tutor Liliya

Brabbs, from the Czech Republic, who speaks five languages, said the Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian workers found it easier to learn basic English and grammar from someone who spoke their mother tongue in a less formal setting.

One of her students, Rimma Maldzus from Latvia, was recently presented with an adult learner award from Richard Howitt MEP at an East of England Development Agency event in Peterborough.

The 36-year-old, who had no English when she arrived in Thetford with her two daughters, has worked in local factories for the last three years.

She now hopes to go back into accounting, which was her profession in Latvia, thanks to the support

and guidance of the GMB Union.

Miss Brabbs, who also teaches migrant workers about their rights, said the lessons had helped the eastern Europeans integrate into society and avoid exploitation.

“It is so important for them to come here and learn English, but also to socialise with each other and enjoy it.

“It is better than what it used to be, but there are still some agencies that exploit migrant workers. Our goal is to help them and enforce their rights

because when they do not know the law, they get exploited and some work 90 to 100 hours a week,” she said.

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