"It wasn’t enough to communicate with local people, you need to go higher and higher."
For Marita move to the UK was a process. 6 years ago her husband moved here from Latvia with their older son while she with their younger son stayed at home. For a year Marita was travelling back and forth to see her family in Cambridge for a couple of weeks and going back to Latvia for a couple of months. Originally a sales manager, in her home country Marita was doing many various jobs, ranging from working in a call centre, as a sales consultant, through telecommunications sector in customer service to volunteering as a social worker mediating companies in Cannabis Association Foundation working jointly towards clothes production.
After one year of travelling, the family was reunited while Marita with other son joined her husband to settle in Over, near Cambridge. When she visited the work agency for the first time she was sent away being said to improve her English. In Latvia she was working in two languages, Latvian and Russian, and also learned German at school. For a year she attended English classes at work once a week albeit it appeared insufficient to get a position in the UK. After 2 months however she got a job as a cleaner in a motorway service area. It turned out to be much more than only cleaning the tables with no language requirements – lorry drivers had thousands of questions to be answered! Slowly, with a help of friend she was getting better in her English, and got better position there. After 2 years she has decided to change her job to the one where she could use her language skills more. After one year at XXX, Marita was finally successful to obtain a permanent position at the Cambridge Assessment, where she works now.
Language learning curve with C-ELS
After moving to the UK she was attending an English course for a year to improve her pronunciation and comprehension. It wasn’t enough to communicate with local people, she admits, you need to go higher and higher. Her husband found the contact details of the C-ELS, Cambridge English Language Society, and Marita took part in her first 10-weeks SPEAK programme. When she recalls her first impression, everything said and discussed there seemed very easy and basic. However, when she was asked to say it, she couldn’t speak a word feeling muted. Week after week, with teachers constantly focusing on student’s speaking development, she started to speak more confidently meanwhile learning new methods and aspects of self-presentation, preparing for a job interview, making a phone call. After finishing the first course, she started another one and another… for the last 3.5 years. This is not only learning, this is a community, says Marita. You meet the people from around the world, you need to learn how to overcome shyness, how to start a conversation, how to make a compliment to a person you hardly know – that’s a challenge, she laughs. Now the classes are run over Zoom, even easier to reach. And a teacher sees all his students in the first row – all you needful is to log in and stay focused, it can be even more effective, she admits. When you do not understand the question, just ask for rephrasing it – Marita repeats one of the course best-practices.
Knitting – more than a hobby
It is quite natural women in her family region do various types of handcrafting. Sewing, crocheting, knitting are only a few. Her grandmother was making little leather shoes and so does Marita. She started doing them already in Latvia, being successful in selling them. After coming here, she continued her family tradition – she found places to buy good quality fabric, yarn, leather to make little cute masterpieces. “I do it for relax”, she smiles and shows full rack of colourful shoes, bookmarks and bracelets with Latvian ornaments. A couple of years ago she went to a market in London where a Latvian culture festival took place. There she has sold more than a hundred products and from that time on she was visiting local markets every second month selling her handicraft. This encouraged her to move forward and now her artwork is also available on Facebook
Present on a positive note
She never felt lonely being a foreigner – she had friends around helping her start life in a new place. However, she was worried about her English skills at the beginning. Once her speaking and comprehension abilities started to improve, she felt more confident and able to express herself what brings her satisfaction. Now she has many international friends, looks happy and smiles a lot while speaking. Her job gives her satisfaction and opportunity for personal development with new courses to undertake – everything in English. She shares her dreams to become a sales manager one day and improve crocheting skills to offer even more crafts.
Take home a pill of positive thinking
Marita shares her experience in learning a second language almost from nothing. Two hours once a week is not enough, she notices, especially when you come back home and speak your language for the rest of the week. She gives some tips: start next course after finishing the previous one, watch youtube clips for pronunciation or follow Instagram to learn synonyms and expressions, turn on the radio whenever you can, watch the movies. Having your headphones in your ears connected with a mobile in your pocket you can make your everyday activities and learn at the same time. Many years ago her husband asked her is it worth to keep worrying, complaining and ending up by taking some medications for anxiety. Wouldn’t it be better to stay positive and offer the others the same? She practise this approach ever since.
Well done, Marita!
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