Talking our language in Falkirk

Joanna and Ninoska love life in Falkirk. PICTURE: Michael Gillen (132365)
Joanna and Ninoska love life in Falkirk. PICTURE: Michael Gillen (132365)
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Speaking another language has been on everyone’s ‘to do’ list forever, but not many of us get round to actually doing it.

People in this country are usually in awe of foreigners who speak English, sometimes even better than us, and quite rightly so. Learning a new dialect is extremely difficult - that’s why so few of us have the skill in comparison to those from different countries who have a passable knowledge of our language.

Throw into the mix moving to a country far from home and adapting to an alien way of life, people, culture, food and finding a job and the thought is pretty daunting.

Two women from different corners of the earth, now living here, have done just that and are happy to have made Falkirk their home, but language, however, is still proving to be a barrier in one aspect of their lives.

While much is made of ‘Johnny foreigner’ moving here and “stealing our jobs and living off benefits”, circumstances are not all black and white and tolerance and respect must be given.

Single mum Joanna Wolczyck-Papciak (38), originally from the south of Poland, stays in Larbert with her two sons aged 19 and seven. She moved here when her former partner had a work contract in the area. They separated but Joanna loved it and stayed and now considers our country her home.

Ninoska Skelton, also 38, made the move to Falkirk from her home in San Pedro Sula in Honduras when she married husband Justin. They now have a three-year-old son.

The ambitious ladies, who both speak our language very well, have become firm friends through the English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) course at Forth Valley College.

Joanna, a qualified midwife in Poland, has lived here for six years. Outside the course she works as a care assistant in a nursing home in Bannockburn, but hasn’t been able to work in midwifery as she doesn’t have the required standard of English - something she will have by the end of the ESOL course.

“I want to become a midwife here as quick as possible,” she said. “I moved here six years ago to be with my partner. He got a contract to work in Scotland eight years ago but my family was broken so we moved over, but unfortunately we separated.

“When I first moved over it was very difficult for me because my language was very simple and I couldn’t talk with others. It was maybe part of the problem why we separated, but I started to attend college in my fifth year here and I have improved my English and I try to be an independent person.

“Every year I feel more confident and every day I enjoy it more here. My priority now is to get back to my job as a midwife. In Poland that was what I was and I feel the best when I do that.”

After overcoming her initial difficulties, Joanna has worked to make a home here for her and her sons who, she admits with a tinge of pride, speak English better than she does.

She added: “When I go back to Poland I feel like an alien. I think my place is here now, this is my home.

“Both my sons feel more Scottish than Polish. My eldest son is in the second year of a computer science course and my youngest goes to Carron Primary School.

“Their English is really good because they’ve been studying since they came and because they are young they learn more easy. They have lots of Scottish friends and enjoy living here so that makes me very happy.

“All my time in Scotland I have had good friends, good neighbours, helpful people. Never had anything bad happen. People here are very nice.”

Ninoska has lived here for three years and her son speaks both Spanish and English. She was a PA with a large firm in Honduras and is hoping to forge a similar career here when her English is better.

She believes we are lucky to live in a society as free as we do. “I think Falkirk, and the UK in general is a wonderful place to live,” she said.

“Personally, I think it’s a very fair society. I can say that because I have travelled around the world.

“Some people here will say ‘no, that’s not right’, but if they can compare, for example, with North America, Latin America, Rome, Greece, Spain or Dubai then you come and see what it is like here it’s a big difference. I think it a terrific system here.

“People are much nicer here as well. Simple things like saying please and thank you are very important and people do that here. I would say the people are better here than most places.

“I have very good neighbours and friends too. We say hello in the morning and if I need help people will help me.”

Ninoska also said contributing to our society is a big thing for those on the ESOL course. She added: “Everyone on the course can speak and understand English on a conversible level. It’s not for simple English, but for improvement in English to use the correct grammar and spelling and for conversations.

“The language is obviously the biggest barrier, or challenge, for us. When the people in class came here it was difficult because most of them were very educated in their own countries, but to come and find jobs to the levels they are used to is very difficult.

“The better you communicate the more you can bring to society. This is the big challenge.”

Scott Harrison, curriculum manager in Forth Valley College’s department of access and progression, said: “Ninoska and Joanna are exactly the kind of students who will see the benefits from completing this course that will vastly improve their career prospects and prepare them for the Scottish workplace.”