Due to international crises and wars, large numbers of refugees are seeking asylum in Europe. Three volunteer organisations from Germany, Bulgaria and Romania have decided to concentrate on one problem most of the refugees coming to their country must face: they are not able to understand and speak the language of their host country. The language barrier is a great challenge – not only to the refugees themselves but also to those who are trying to support them. Only if refugees are able to communicate in the language of their host country, they can express themselves directly without having to rely on translation services. This is where volunteers come into play: they can help refugees to learn and practise the local language.
The German organisation “Gemeinsam leben und lernen in Europa e. V.” (short: GLL) has developed a good practice model that addresses the challenge of language learning. It has set up a successful volunteer language mentor programme for young refugees: trained volunteers help refugees on a one-to-one, face-to-face basis to learn the language and to understand the culture of their new home. Additionally, GLL has developed some easy-to-use learning and teaching material for volunteer mentors.
For the “Talk with me” project, the German partners transferred this successful volunteer programme to Bulgaria and Romania, and together, the partner organisations adjusted the programme to the circumstances in their respective countries. With the help of young volunteers and refugees, they also improved the existing learning and teaching material to make it suit both the needs of the “non-professional” language mentors and of the refugee mentees. After this, successful pilot-tests were run in all three countries.
To further improve the training and support for the volunteers involved in the programme, the partners then produced a number of project manuals in English, German, Bulgarian and Romanian. These manuals are freely accessible on this website and they are meant to help other NGOs who would like to set up their own language mentoring programmes.
The overall aim of this project is to improve the integration of refugees in different European countries and to support volunteers who are working with refugees across Europe. As our programme is easy to implement and requires small financial resources, we hope that other NGOs will be inspired and encouraged to realise similar projects. And of course, we hope that this programme leads to friendships between young locals and young refugees. This is the key to integration: to be able to speak the local language, to have someone to talk to, and to be connected within the local community.
The final products available to download are:
- a short summary of the refugee situation and the support available to refugees in Germany, Bulgaria and Romania
- a training curriculum for young voluntary language mentors
- a manual for an information session for young refugees
- a curriculum for an intercultural training for young refugees
- a project manual for the “Talk with me” project
- a concept for the implementation of a multiplier event
- a European format for a physical toolbox with suggestions for teaching and learning material which can be used in refugee work across Europe (e.g. picture cards, exercises, games, etc.).