By the end of one semester, however, she gave a speech at her graduation ceremony.
Last year, Sharon immigrated from Guangdong, China, with her husband and school-aged daughter.
She’d been in the country only four months when she enrolled in the pilot course – English Language Partners’ first full-time English programme.
The graduation ceremony was special. In her speech, Sharon talked about her gratitude to the organisation and her teacher, Cholena Main.
She then joined other Chinese students in singing their national anthem. At the celebratory morning tea, a Samoan student set up a sound system and got everyone up and dancing.
Sharon is back with many of her fellow students, studying towards the next level – Level 2.
She and her current classmates, from Vietnam, India, China and Mexico have formed tight bonds. Cholena’s impressed with how they’ve supported each other. They mix well and have frequent shared lunches, where they enjoy sampling foods from their different countries.
“Sharon has also organised barbeques and picnics,” says Cholena. “She is the unofficial ‘class coordinator’. This hasn’t been easy for her. In China, she would hire people to help. Here, she’s had to learn everything.
“She’s done so well. I couldn’t even have a conversation with her when she arrived. Now she goes out. She has places to go and things to do. It’s great.”
Sharon speaks positively about Cholena, describing her as a “very good teacher – we love her”.
Sharon can now say what she’s appreciated in learning English: learning to look things up on a computer, to go shopping and to make an appointment with a doctor or dentist.
“I’ve learned things for my life,” she says.
In China, Sharon worked in accountancy; here she does the accounts for her husband’s building design business. Ultimately, she would like to speak enough English to be employed in an English-speaking business. Her other goal is to socialise in English to make new friends, something she has already begun doing.
When Sharon completes Level 2 of the NZQA qualification she will be eligible for higher-level courses with institutions, such as Unitec, in Auckland.
These intense full-time training programmes will produce graduates ready to attend tertiary courses and to gain high-level employment. Hopefully, Sharon will be just one of many English Language Partners’ students to take this path.