Devoted Chelsea fan and aspiring footballer, Souleymane Diallo Diarra has used his love of the game as a stimulant to learn a whole new language and progress onto a business course at London South East Colleges.

On arrival from Mali in 2016, the twenty-year-old found himself plunged into a strange new environment and suddenly isolated without any knowledge of the local lingo to help him get by.

“It was a frightening experience,” says Souleymane, “but one that made me take quick and positive steps to ensure I could learn the language and equip myself with the skills needed to get a job and support myself.”

Luckily for Souleymane, who now lives in Woolwich with his father, he didn’t need to look any further than the Greenwich Campus of London South East Colleges to find the perfect starter-course. Within just a few weeks, he was settling down to his first lesson on the ESOL Entry Level Certificate.

Reflecting on his journey so far, Souleymane said: “From day one I started to learn the basics; how to say ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’ and many other essentials. As the weeks passed, I got more confident and soon I was having conversations in English with my fellow students and teachers. It wasn’t long before I could communicate very effectively with all kinds of people - including native English speakers.

“My teachers, Anita and Albana, taught us not just the language, but lots of things about British culture and values, customs and traditions and lots of other things such as regional accents and dialects. I’m pleased to say that just two years later, I am fast becoming fluent.

“Next for me is to gain my English and maths GCSEs and to advance from level 1 to level 3 in my business course.”

Back in his native city of Bamako (the capital of Mali), Souleymane had played for a local football team. A very talented defender and winger, he was a regular first-team player and had ambitions to play professionally one day - an ambition he still holds.

He continues: “I asked Anita if she knew of any local football teams I could join. Together we researched local leagues around south east London and pretty soon I was running out on the pitch for my first game with the Phoenix Sports U21 FC. I’m proud to say that in my first season, I have played in every match, reached a tournament final, finished league runners-up, and I won the Manager’s Player of the Year Award 2017/18.

“Joining this team has also helped me with my language skills - good communication is essential in football. I guess I was dropped in at the deep-end and learnt quickly what many of the local footballing terms meant. I now know my ‘man-on’, ‘play it back’, ‘square’, ‘centre’ ‘down the middle’ and many more.

“Taking up a sport and becoming part of a team has really changed my life and helped me feel more at home and part of a bigger family. I thank my tutors at the College for this and I really feel now that I have a great future.”

Clare Nightingale is the Head of Faculty for ESOL at London South East Colleges’ Greenwich and Bexley campuses. She is delighted with the progress that Souleymane has made. She said: “Souleymane has been a real pleasure to teach. He’s what we would call an ideal student. He listens, he’s enthusiastic about learning and makes an enormous contribution to the group. He also has a great attendance record and is always on-time for lessons. I’m very confident that he will go on to achieve many great things and we all wish him well for the future.”

If English is not your first language, and feel that you would like to improve your reading, writing and speaking skills, we would like to hear from you. We have a great range of courses from beginners to advanced. Visit us at one of our open events. Click here to learn more.


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