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  • Writer's pictureShelley Purchon

What I do.

Updated: May 3, 2020

Mine is such an obvious idea that I can’t believe nobody else is doing it.

The 2011 census showed that almost a million people are living in the UK without the ability to speak English well.

138,000 of them cannot speak English at all. Over the years I have taught some of these people (my background is in English teaching), and time and again I’ve seen conversations take place between them and other staff members in the places I’ve worked. Very often I am asked to help, because ‘they don’t understand.’ So then I have a go, and often they do understand. In those moments I have wondered- why can’t my colleagues see where they’re going wrong? Can’t they see that Fatima’s English isn’t all that bad, she just can’t catch what they’re saying because they’re not modifying their speech?

It helps if you modify your speech when for non English speakers.

I have learnt how to do this over many years as an English teacher, plus I know how it feels because in 1994 I moved to Madrid with hardly a word of Spanish. I’ve come to realise that these changes are not obvious to other people. The good news is that they are teachable skills, and English Unlocked can help. Visit my home page to learn the names of some organisations in Newcastle and the North East which have invested in English Unlocked training.

62% of British people can only speak English.

So it's unsurprising that we lack insight into how it feels to struggle in another language, and lack awareness of what we could do that might help. In the meantime, roughly 1 in 60 people in the UK cannot speak English well, and over a million school children are EAL (English as an Additional Language.) Free English lessons for immigrants are largely a thing of the past, which means that there are lots of adults out there who would love to get better at English but don't know how.

How can English Unlocked help your organization to be more L.E.P. friendly?

I train staff to modify how they speak, so they will be more confident and get better results when they’re having those difficult conversations with non English speaking clients (click here to find out what the training consists of, or here to find out why I speak Spanish during the training sessions).

English Unlocked also provides a proof reading service. I can look at the forms, leaflets and other literature which your organization uses day to day, and produce an alternative version for use with LEP clients when a translation is unavailable.

English Unlocked communication training is interactive.

I use Spanish to give a sense of how it feels to be spoken to in a language you don't understand. If you'd like to see for yourself how effective this is, watch the videos on this web page. The training also includes an opportunity for attendees to practice the skills they've learnt, with personalised feedback.

Communication training does not replace the need for interpreters.

There will always be occasions when interpreters are needed, but it isn't realistic to expect one to be available for every tricky conversation. Some public service industries are waking up to the fact that matching with interpreters can be problematic, and are beginning to search harder for ways to become more accessible to non English speaking communities. My services can help to bridge the gap.

How to work effectively with interpreters.

English Unlocked also provides workplace training for staff who work with interpreters.

How to work effectively with an interpreter is a half day course which will show your staff how to recognise competence in interpreters and work in harmony with them. Interpreters are an expensive resource so it pays to train your team to get the most out of them

Please get in touch.

English Unlocked is based in Newcastle Upon Tyne, but both courses are available as a webinar.

I'd be very happy to speak to you and answer any questions. You can contact me by phone (07786003429) or send an email to

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