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This month the Complete Parts and @ The Coalface $500 Community Gift goes to Singleton English Lessons for New Australians (SELFNA), a rapidly growing group that is achieving so much more than the founders ever anticipated.

The group comes together on Saturdays at Singleton Library and their most recent lesson was all about coffee. You could smell it along with the aroma of lovely baked treats, but it was the words that were most important.

One of the members ordered a coffee, a basic task that is so easy for many of us but for those who do not speak English, this simple act is challenging to say the least.

Our student wanted a latte and she managed that well except for the following questions of size, sugar and if she was paying cash. The conversation between the two students was prompted with assistance by fellow students and teachers and it all ended well with plenty of laughs.

Among the class are students whose first languages are Chinese, Vietnamese, Columbian, Pilipino and Afghani.

It all started back in March when former primary teacher Meg Drinan mentioned to Dr Tuan Au that she would not mind teaching English to new Australians. Dr Au was quick to say he had students ready to take up the opportunity. Dr Au is Vietnamese himself and was in touch with a number of new residents in Singleton who only spoke their home language.

That conversation led to the beginning of the lessons at Singleton library. The original cohort of four students has now grown to a regular 17 including two young boys, Johnny and Anh who spend time with another teacher, Jen Norton. The little boys play games, read books and most importantly, speak English.

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Meg has also coerced others into assisting with the program including Gai Scoles and Connie Herman.

The objective of the group is to provide opportunities for new Australians to participate in, be exposed to, and become more confident in the basic conventions of English.

By providing face to face lessons, attending local events to consolidate English skills and participating in essential everyday activities such as grocery shopping and contacting schools and doctor’s surgeries, SELFNA Inc. aims to develop confidence and competence in speaking English.

While they meet regularly at the library, they also go on outings and have had excursions to Tocal and Hunter Valley Zoo as well as venturing on a couple of picnics.

While learning English is the priority for all involved, the socialisation and friendships formed within the group has been an unexpected bonus.

Kim Vu has lived in Australia for 11 years and she has also come on board. She was an English teacher in Vietnam and couldn’t be happier with this new group’s success.

“It is not only a chance to learn and practice English, but also a chance to learn about Australian culture,” Kim said adding that the students had immediate access when they needed someone to turn to for support with things like enrolling in school.

If you would like to know more about the group their Facebook page is Singleton English Lessons For New Australians (SELFNA INC).

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