How to live and breathe NZ | ELPNZ

How to live and breathe NZ

09 June 2015

After more than a decade in New Zealand, Delia Giurgiu has found the best thing about learning a language is the people you meet along the way.

The Romanian-born bank employee says her new life down under has been filled with novel experiences and adventures, with one of the most rewarding bonds she’s made being with her English teacher, Margi Keys. 

“She taught me not just English, she taught me everything about New Zealand culture and I changed myself through this journey – it’s not just English teaching, it’s a lot more,” says Delia. 
 
The pair met through English Language Partners’ ‘English for Migrants’ programme back in 2002 and have remained firm friends. 
 
“For an immigrant, it’s important to have somebody to show that you can do it,” says Delia. “To find somebody from the local community to really connect with.” 
 
Putting people before words and grammar is crucial for Margi, who has an extensive background in English teaching. “To me, it’s all about the relationship, and English Language Partners tries to match the teacher with the learner. 
 
If the match is right, then you just form a relationship, and we did that pretty much straight away.” Despite having help, Delia says learning to navigate a new culture and language wasn’t easy, though she admits, in the end, the process has made her a stronger person. 
 

“Margi really supported me, she made me believe in myself and whatever she gave me, I tried to do my best.”
Delia, now a New Zealand citizen, also has her husband, a mechanical design engineer; son, a university student; and mum living in the country. 
 
Delia says she “never dreamed” of being proficient enough in English to work in the same field here as she did in Romania. Now working as a risk analyst for the Bank of New Zealand, she says getting there took courage and lots of hard work – as well as dose of realism. 
 
“I knew my limits, so honestly, at the beginning I didn’t apply for any banking jobs because I knew – I wouldn’t employ myself because of the language.” 
 
Instead of diving straight into the banking sector, Delia hit the streets armed with her CV and an open mind to work anywhere. 
 
Before long she secured a job in a small, family-run business and had some Kiwi work experience under her belt. 
 
“I keep saying to my friends and other people who came from Romania; ‘Don’t worry about what job you already had, that is a good experience, you will use it one day, but move a step or two or three or 10 down, and then show to other people that yes, you can do the job. 
 
Then you’ll have good references and you can move a step ahead’.” 
 
Margi says this “intrinsic motivation” of Delia’s has been inspiring to watch over the years. 
 
“What struck me about Delia right from the beginning was that she’d have a go at anything… I noticed that early on. She had, and still has, that spirit of giving it a go – she was so courageous.”
 
Seeing Delia’s English improve has “just been fantastic,” says Margi. “I feel very proud of her. It’s just wonderful that she came into my life.”  
 
And it seems the two were destined to meet, crossing paths when Delia applied for a job – “to get myself familiar with interviews” – at the North Shore Women’s Centre, where Margi was working at the time. Although unsuccessful in her application, the significance of the meeting
 was not lost when, at a later date, Margi knocked on Delia’s door to introduce herself as a teacher. 
 
“I think nothing just happens in your life, sometimes it’s meant to be like that. We were meant to meet each other,” says Delia.
 
As well as working on her professional English, Delia also got stuck into learning her adopted tongue at every possible level, enrolling in community courses, volunteering and even taking a small role in a local theatre production.
 
“I try to use English in any situation, that’s important. Working as a volunteer is critical, because you have to meet people and they teach you more than just language, they teach you how to live and breathe New Zealand,” she says. 
 
Also important, says Delia, is the ability to laugh at yourself and accept your linguistic faults. “Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. We are human beings, we are all making mistakes in different ways, so just learn from mistakes – otherwise you won’t progress.”
 
Delia’s next challenge is to perfect her public speaking by becoming a toastmaster, proving if you have a will to learn, there really is nothing that can hold you back.  
 
Writer James Fyfe | Photos Andrew Lau