Maria Maceren

The confidence to communicate well in English is often key for people from other countries to feeling part of Kiwi communities.


At the Ashburton Learning Centre, the team of staff and volunteers are providing a welcoming learning space for people accessing support across a range of literacy and numeracy courses.


Tutor Maria Maceren says the centre has seen a steady rise in the number of English as a Second Language (ESOL) students on its roll in the past few years. With students hailing from all corners of the globe, it is important for staff to hone in on the individual needs of those attending their classes. But, someone who is confident reading English might not possess that same confidence in speaking it, so it is essential for her team to also identify a solution that works for the student.


Maria says learning English is empowering for the students she works with and it is an important part of building their confidence to communicate and participate in everyday Kiwi life.


“Ashburton is a culturally diverse town and we have seen the number of migrants who work here grow every year. When they have proficient English they are more confident at their jobs and they are more effective workers. It’s a win-win.”


“We’re not tied up with just one method [of teaching]. We introduce [different] ways for them to participate in the language,” Maria says. “Communication is very broad, it’s not limited to what we speak and what we hear, it’s more about your confidence to convey your ideas.”


Living in a technology driven society has not only stimulated an evolution in how we communicate, it has provided a variety of mediums to do so. She says with most people having a smart phone, staff help download and teach students how to use applications that can translate speech and txt. This ultimately makes English, and any other language, more accessible and gives English speaking and non-English speaking residents a tool to communicate between each other without barriers.


Maria says the sharing of information between locals and newcomers about community events, shared activities, or even the weather, also contributed towards fostering a welcoming community that helps newcomers to feel at home.


“It’s a two-way process. It’s not just the newcomer it’s also the community that they are settling in. It takes patience, it takes a lot of hard work – you just need to try it and go for it. Once you make a move and engage in that initial conversation, everything else is going to be history after that. When you see the results, it’s worth it.”


A recent success story has come from the Ashburton Learning Centre supporting some ESOL students to open their own local restaurant. Maria said the Centre worked with them to help provide an understanding of New Zealand health and safety obligations and their responsibilities as employers. It was about going at a pace that was comfortable for them, so they could get a good grasp of the information they needed and feel assured about their understanding of it all in English.

Useful Links

Ashburton District Council

5 Baring Square West

7700 Ashburton

Welcoming Communities New Zealand is a government initiative led by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, in partnership with the Department of Internal Affairs (including the Office of Ethnic Communities) and the New Zealand Human Rights Commission.

  • Facebook - Black Circle