Learning English helps you find a job: Katana’ story

Published by: Johann Taljaard

Published on: 4 Oct, 2019

Finding employment in a new country can be a daunting task. We talk with Katana, who explains how mastering the native language opens doors to employment and helps integration into a new social community.

This month we are focussing on work. Our research report, ‘Moving Matters’ told us that work is fundamental to making a life in the UK, not only for the pay cheque but also work becomes a place to make friends and to develop language skills.  Here are some quotes from the report:

Another challenging aspect to it is finding jobs. In a city like London you are competing with many well educated and experienced professionals from all over the world, so if you don’t have much language skills, something unique to offer, or even have the right contacts, you may spend a long time trying to find the right one” Social listening

“The issue was the fact that I couldn’t speak English at all, and my first language is French So I had to try and find a college to go to and eventually from there forge my English, make it better. So it would be a lot easier to find a job around London.” Interviewee

So, I interviewed  Katana to find out  how she learnt English and some of her observations on London culture and language.

I am living my best life

I came to London from France to follow my dreams and to learn English.  I like the energy in London, I like how people help people. There is always something to do in London. 

But no one has any time. I think this has an impact. I feel the conversations are serious and people talk about how they feel.

When I came here, I spoke Creole and French and no English. So, I learnt English through watching movies with the subtitles on. When I came here, people who made me feel bad helped me and people who made me feel good, helped me.  They made me feel bad by correcting me but that was helpful and people being positive helped me keep going.

You make friends at work because everyone is so busy so your work colleagues become the people you socialise with.  Apart from my work friends, I tend to go out with French people so I am always between two languages.

I started with a free English class run in Oxford Circus, for three hours every afternoon for a month, I then got a job where I had to speak English.  It helped a lot.  The hardest thing about speaking English is my French accent, so sometimes people don’t understand me.  This can be frustrating but it also helps you improve.  I can actually speak like British people but I do want people to know I am French.

After a year of living in the UK, I can read a book in English but I am translating it back into French in my head.  I do know, though, that this is how to extend my vocabulary.

At the beginning, I translated every word into French but I can now think in English, I can think both in French and in English simultaneously.

Here are some of my favourite phrases:

‘I am living my best life’

‘I told you, do/bro’ These are marks of affection

I do think that the British tend to exaggerate, they say more than the situation  needs, something small and they say ‘amazing!’. It doesn’t take much to make them enthusiastic. It makes you both feel good and that maybe sometimes it’s a bit fake.

But, I am now writing songs in French and English and that feels good.

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