Hi! I’m Halima.
I'm like you. I wasn’t born into an English speaking family. In fact, you probably went to a school at a young age. I was illiterate, and I started school at the age of nine.
We had very little. My parents took my siblings and me to England for one reason, Education.
That was the most important thing to them. And that's where my English learning journey began.
I was a complete beginner. I didn't know how to say one word in English. I didn't know how to read or write in any other language either.
24 years later, I am sitting in Starbucks in London, England drinking a cappuccino, thinking about my journey as an ESL student.
Where I started and where I am now.I want to take you back to September 1994. The year I started school. I came to a new country as a refugee with my family.
We had nothing.
All I remember was moving from house to house and never settling down. We were lucky enough to be given a home with three bedrooms.
We were a family of seven. Every single thing was new to us. I remember going to school and wanting to learn everything in a single day. I wanted to know the name of everything and how to talk to everyone. However, soon the lack of language affected my other subjects. I started to feel resentment towards school.
Things went from bad to worse.
I remember one particular day at 13 years of age. I was in science class, and the teacher asked me a question, and I felt like I knew the answer, so I eagerly put up my hand to answer it.
Students around me laughed, and I couldn’t understand why. It turned out that I misread the question. That moment never left me, and it still haunts me sometimes even now.
At the age of 13, I discovered I loved books.
My friends didn't like reading, so I'd secretly go to libraries on my own and read. Reading helped me develop my language skills considerably.
I learnt thousands of words this way. I couldn't believe that reading had existed for so long and no one had told me about it. I continue to read until this day.
So you see, I know what it feels like to be you. I know the struggles you go through trying to understand words, phrases.
I know what it feels like to feel stupid because you don't understand your teacher or your best friend.