Although speaking English in New Zealand creates some challenges, the auto-electrical engineer says a course at English Language Partners Aoraki has helped him to avoid getting his wires crossed at work.
Originally from central Luzon, 40 minutes’ drive from the Philippines’ capital Manila, Teddy Bangilinan arrived in November 2011, after working in Algeria.
His skills and desire to earn money for his family meant he had already been working overseas for several years.
“I worked mostly in African countries like South Africa, Angola, Libya, and also other parts of the world like in Palau and Qatar.
“I need to earn money. I’m married, so I need to take care of my family. It’s not easy to be living separately. It’s hard, but it’s a part of my work.”
Some of the countries Teddy worked in lacked something important for him.
“Different cultures, different government policies… Some are very restrictive on religion, but here you are free.”
Concerns about safety in some countries also made them less attractive choices for Teddy in the long term.
“There, you cannot roam. It’s very different. You need to stay at home. I like it here, because it’s very peaceful and most of the people are very friendly.”
Because his skills were on the government shortlist, Teddy was able to migrate to New Zealand. Moving to South Canterbury required some adjustment. Some of his previous employers had provided workers with services and accommodation.
“Here, you need to pay your rent, to cook your food, to wash your own clothes.”
After working his way around Africa and elsewhere, Teddy Bangilinan says he’s found an ideal home for his family in Timaru.
Teddy managed to find a boss who is “very patient with me” at Austin Auto Electrical, and settled into a multicultural flat near Aoraki Polytechnic. His skills were valuable enough for the New Zealand Government to grant him permanent residency three years ago. Despite his trade skills, Teddy has sometimes found it hard to communicate with other people in English.
At Austin Auto Electrical, where Teddy is often called out to jobs at different places, and where talking on the phone is commonplace, he realised he had to improve his English skills. In his previous jobs, he’d used English, but not a lot.
“In the Philippines, speaking English is a mix. Our second language is English, aside from Filipino, but sometimes we use ‘Taglish’, Tagalog and English. It’s our normal way of life. That’s why most Filipinos can speak English. If you live in an English-speaking country, you need to improve it.”
After hearing about the English for Employees programme, Teddy enrolled with his boss’s support. During the course, Teddy was able to team up with a diverse group of classmates and professional teachers to learn about the trickier parts of the English language he encountered in his everyday work. He says the friendly environment has made it easier for him and the other learners to discuss and overcome their problems with English.
His classmates, who have come from places like Japan, Nepal and Romania, all agree the course has boosted their confidence.
“We study like friends, and we talk like friends,” Teddy says.
As well as correcting spelling, grammar and pronunciation, Teddy’s teachers have helped him understand a lot of New Zealand idioms and words. Explaining that “bonnet” means to a New Zealander, what “hood” means to an American, is just one of the ways teachers have removed barriers to clear communication for Teddy in his workplace.
“It’s a big help,” he says.
Teddy is increasingly comfortable talking with customers and workmates. Although telephone conversations remain a challenge, Teddy says his English is improving all the time, and his increasing familiarity with the New Zealand accent is making it easier to talk on the phone. The course has also made it easier to converse with his flatmates, who all speak English as a second language.
Most importantly, Teddy is looking forward to having his son Onin, 9, and wife Myra move to New Zealand.
Jack Montgomerie / Photos: Andrew Lau