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By Mr Hoang Duong - ESL Coordinator



The first thing most of Non-English Speaking Background migrants in general, Indo-Chinese in particular, in their early days of settlement in Australia, might be thinking of is applying for English classes. The purpose is rather simple: access to English-speaking environment for the sake of secure living and contribution to this second homeland.

Toward this aim, they would seek communicative English and the kind of English which can help them to acquire a certain knowledge of the structure of the Australian society, its fundamental rules and regulations, Australian culture, the psychology, lifestyle among other particular traits of Australians, Australia's working practice, work place and the work market in this country. With regards to employment opportunities, they also strongly believe that English skills are an essential requirement for improving their employability and that very low English skills will make them severely disadvantaged in the tough job-hunting.

Having identified these logical requirements, SICMAA has been responsive for years. Its bilingual classes of English are designed to meet these needs:

- Provision of general English to enable its Indo-Chinese clients to communicate in the English-speaking society for the sake of integration, employment and contribution.

- Provision of employment English to help them improve their competitiveness in the Australian labour market and access training courses for skilled labour.


With regard to teaching modus, SICMAA's Teaching Corps found it necessary to design a special method which can effectively assist Indo-Chinese, especially those who do not have a ward of English upon arrival to learn the language in a relatively easy way. The bilingual approach was then given birth. It needs to be quickly underline here that bilingualism should not be understood as "an interpreting task" and the tutor who uses the bilingual pattern in teaching is not necessarily an "interpreter".

In the first learning session, the bilingual tutor uses the student's mother tongue to explain the lesson which is then repeat by the English-speaking counterpart in the next teaching session or monolingual (completely English) session. It is clear that the bilingualism is playing a supporting role only. In other words, the first language - Khmer, Chinese and Vietnamese in our case are purposely exploited to support the monolingual teaching.

After 7 years of application, the methodology has proved to be of some help to learners, especially slow learners. From times to times, the Centrelink and other English providers in the area, having found that it could be hard for their newly -arrived clients to attend English classes without the assistance of their first languages, have not hesitated to refer them to SICMAA, at least for the first stage of learning the language.


In establishing term curriculum for its classes, SICMAA's Teaching Corps have adhere to the following module basis:

a) Vocabulary: focus on provisional of practical and simple terminology responsive to communication needs in the English-speaking environment and to the demands of a minimum knowledge of the Australian structure, institutions, work practice, work place and labour market.

b) Grammatical structure: the teaching of English grammar is vital to Indo-Chinese learners, as this will give them the basic skills to construct sentences grammatically.

c) Reading, listening and speaking: the English-speaking tutor takes the responsibility of looking after the reading, listening and speaking comprehension skills with emphasis being placed on the students' conversational needs.

Personal development: focus on helping learners build confidence in their capacity of communicating, accessing competitiveness in the labour market: convincing them to firmly believe without English skills, they would be possibly excluded from the workforce, they would have trouble communicating with their Australian born relatives; encouraging people both job-seekers and non-job-seekers to show more English acquire for the sake of integration, interaction and better communication in the Australian society; stirring up their self motivation in giving their part of contribution to the retrieval of the Australian economy.


In general terms, this framework is concerned with providing basic and practical English, developing English skills in four macro areas of speaking-writing-listening-reading for learners.


a) 2 funded groups (by ACFE): Post-beginners and Pre-intermediate.

b) 2 non-funded groups (SICMAA supported): Beginners and Intermediate

a) 2 funded: 15 participants/group x 2 groups x 4 term = 120 participants

b) 2 non-funded: 10 participants/group x 2 groups x 4 term = 80 participants

a) Funded: 5 sessions/group/week x 2 groups x 40 weeks = 400 sessions

b) Non-funded: - Intermediate: 5 sessions/week x 40 weeks = 200 sessions

- Beginners: 2 sessions/week x 40 weeks = 80 sessions

a) Funded: 1.1/2 hours x 400 sessions = 600 hours

b) Non-funded: 1.1/2 hours x 280 sessions = 423 hours


A general view of the post-course outcomes has brought to attention a number of remarkable features as follow:

Outgoing clients: upon completion of a few courses at SICMAA, a number of clients left the centre for the below mentioned reasons:

- Have successfully passed the job interviews and were given full-time, part-time or casual jobs,

- Have been accepted to attend vocational training courses after a satisfactory English test,

- Now with the level of English required, are confident to undertake self-employment (small business, clothing industry out working, open market selling retail…)

With their acquired English, though still limited, a great number of students are now confident enough to use it for everyday activities e.g. going shopping, answering phone calls, going on excursions, travelling by plane, using public transportation means, accessing services they are entitled to, phoning for information, watching television with better comprehension, attending parent-teacher interviews and meetings, participating in local multicultural festivals/performances, going to information meetings having reference to community problems of great interest…


Considering that learning a new language is a long and complex activity and that the adequate exploitation of the learner's mother tongue is a strong support for both teaching and learning, we would advocate the application of the bilingual methodology, although we are conscious of many imperfections in terms of teaching as well as organisational aspect which need to be subject to reviews in accordance with realistic circumstances.


The Springvale Indo-Chinese Mutual Assistance Association hereby expresses its most sincere thanks to all teachers and its classes, especially to voluntary tutors:

Ms Joyce Gardiner

Ms Diane Durrant

Ms Margot Casey

Mr Van Le

The Elders