Congolese community gets English lessons

By Tara Whitsed

With more new Congolese arrivals coming to Shepparton than ever before, a new English program has been launched in the city.

The Goulburn Valley Congolese Association launched the Learning English with High Speed program last week.

GV Congolese Association president Jean Michel Batakane explained that when he first arrived in Shepparton, it was overwhelming.

While Mr Batakane knew how to speak some English, he was unfamiliar with the Australian accent and did not know there were other Congolese people living here.

He said the new program ensured Congolese migrants felt connected with their community as well as helped them to speak and write English.

He commended the work of the Shepparton English Language Centre but said for Congolese people, learning English was particularly difficult.

‘‘In the Congo we spoke French or Swahili,’’ GV Congolese Association treasurer Joyce Kabangu said.

She and Mr Batakane said in the Congo it was not required to learn English in school and those who chose to learn English would simply learn the basics.

‘‘They would learn British or American English,’’ Ms Kabangu said.

Mr Batakane said it was even more difficult for Congolese people as they often ended up in different African countries after fleeing the Congo which meant they adopted the language of the country they lived in.

In the next few months about 25 students will attend the program, which will also help with grammar, pronunciation and the way sentences are constructed.

‘‘Hopefully by the end of it we’ve got lots of people who can express themselves well,’’ Mr Batakane said.

Mr Batakane thanked the Congolese community, Greater Shepparton City Council and St Paul’s Africa House for their support of the program.