28 Jan 2022
by Cheryl McLoughlin
English for Everyone: Lessons in everyday language for young refugees
Dynamic, easy-to-follow, and highly visual, English for Everyone is a language course designed to help anyone to learn English. In this interview, we caught up with Cheryl McLoughlin, who has been using the Beginner and Intermediate levels to teach English at the Refugee Council’s Youth Development Project and the Red Cross’ Young Refugees project.
As an English teacher for teenage refugees, Cheryl Mcloughlin had three basic criteria in her search for classroom materials: simplicity, user-friendliness, and utility for navigating everyday life. Yet, all the books she could find at a beginners’ level seemed to be aimed at young, primary-school-level children—highly unsuited to her fourteen- to eighteen-year-old students. A colleague pointed her in the direction of DK’s English for Everyone books when they were recommended by another refugee project in the Red Cross. Three years later, the series has become a mainstay in her classes for both the Red Cross and the Refugee Council.
One of key advantages of the series is that, compared to other resources Cheryl had looked at, English for Everyone “just feels more practical and relevant to what [the students] need—because, at the end of the day, it’s just the basic things: going into a shop, exchanging polite conversation, going to the doctor, trying to fill out stuff for college, thinking about jobs . . .” Her students often arrive in the country alone, and many are placed in semi-independent living situations that leave them on their own much of the time. With English for Everyone, Cheryl’s classes have become something of a lifeline in helping these students to gain the confidence to get out into the community and manage day-to-day life in a brand new culture.
Accessibility, for beginners and more advanced students alike, has been another important factor in the series’ success with the classes. The shift to Zoom classes during the height of COVID-19 proved a little chaotic, as classes got larger and everyone adjusted to the challenges of online learning; “but, to be honest, I think the book works well with both [forms of learning]—I find it’s just so well laid out.” Especially when the English levels in a given class are more mixed, Cheryl has found that “it’s just really manageable, with the little sections . . . you can skip to the harder ones, [or] for the guys that are struggling you can do the filling-in-the-gaps and stuff like that.” The use of clear, illustrative graphics and the straightforward structure of the chapters help, too, while the content strikes a good balance between grammar and vocabulary elements. And, she says, “the other thing that’s really useful . . . is the audio, which is really easy to access . . . In terms of just getting on, it’s just so straightforward, it’s fantastic, just the way it’s set up.”
Cheryl notes, too, that the flexibility inherent in the English for Everyone course makes it especially well suited to the drop-in nature of her classes. Each of her sessions tends to have a few students who attend regularly and benefit from working their way steadily through the chapters; but, for those students that can’t make it every time, “it doesn’t really matter that they’ve missed the bits in the middle.” Using English for Everyone, she has found that “the units work quite well as a standalone kind of thing . . . it doesn’t matter if they haven’t done sections four, five and six, they can still access it, and it’s still appropriate and relevant.”
All practicalities aside, Cheryl’s students clearly enjoy her classes and working with the English for Everyone books. “Ninety-nine percent of the students I’ve had over the last three years are just so ambitious. They all really want to learn, you know; you give them stuff to do, and they do it.” Part of that may be to do with the “useful but light-hearted” nature of the classes: “It’s about just trying to be happy and positive and fun as well; and I think, you know, the books are not too heavy.” Looking to the future, Cheryl is eager to explore more of the English for Everyone series. Her current intermediate-level class has “plough[ed] through” the corresponding book, and the next step, she thinks, will have to be the Advanced course.