Experience as non-English speaking migrant helps Maylands resident relate to others as they learn the language

English conversation participants Jayashree Dilip Kumar (India), Selvette Begaj (Kosovo) and Shanti Kumar Malik (India).
English conversation participants Jayashree Dilip Kumar (India), Selvette Begaj (Kosovo) and Shanti Kumar Malik (India).

AFTER moving to Australia more than 60 years ago with no English-speaking skills, Maylands resident Juliane Edmett understands first hand the difficulties of many of City of Bayswater’s migrant residents.

Ms Edmett is one of the volunteer facilitators at the English conversation sessions held at Maylands Library, sessions aimed to improve English skills with residents from India, South America, China, Kosovo, Korea and Iran.

She spoke Dutch and Indonesian “60-odd” years ago when she moved to Australia as a 10-year-old with her parents.

Ms Edmett’s parents spoke five languages each; her mother was born in Indonesia, her father grew up in America, her great-grandfather was German and great-grandmother French.

“When I came to Australia I couldn’t speak English,” she said.

“The first thing (children) asked me was how to swear in Dutch.”

Ms Edmett said the family spoke only English for six months when they arrived to learn the language and faced some discrimination due to her background; the family had come to Australia as refugees.

She said English was easier to pick up because she was a child.

Ms Edmett had been a volunteer at Bayswater’s ECHO Community Services for 20 years when she saw the flier for the sessions.

“For me, it’s just being with people; I get quite a kick out of it,” she said.

“One of the ladies is getting much better and is not as shy, more open.

“It’s given her a lot more confidence which will help when her baby comes in a few weeks.”

Bayswater Mayor Barry McKenna said residents who had English as a second language often struggled to keep up with everyday conversations, which could lead to feelings of isolation and frustration.

“It is important we support them in their attempts to learn English so that they can feel valued and included,” he said.

Sessions are held every Friday at Maylands Library 9.30am to 11.30am.

Due to its popularity in Maylands, the City of Bayswater plans to extended sessions to the Morley Library, sometime in mid-2017.

For more information go to www.bayswater.wa.gov.au.