Imrana was born in Mirpur, in the Azad Kashmir region of Pakistan in 1988. She had 3 sisters, and a brother, and her Father was a Teacher. She was very close to her Grandfather during her early years. In 1999, when she was 11 years old, her father contracted blood cancer, and despite the best efforts of the medical service, he died. Imrana’s vivid memory of that time, was the moment that the Doctor injected her Father with a drug, which, in her mind, resulted in his death. Naturally she became very wary of Doctor’s after that – she assumed that it was he that had caused her Father’s death.
Her Uncle continued to support the family and ensured that Imrana and her siblings got the best education. In Pakistan there is little by way of a welfare system and Imrana knew she needed to get a job. Without a job she would not survive. She managed to get employment as a Teaching Assistant, which helped support the family for the next few years.
In line with their traditions her family and relatives arranged a marriage for her. He was a British born Pakistani man, working in the local area in a tyre maintenance business. For Imrana this meant going to a foreign land and to a country whose language she didn’t speak. Although her listening skills were reasonable she wasn’t comfortable with speaking.
Initially it was very difficult for her in Derby:
“Here life was very stressful because you don’t know how to speak English. First time I went to the Doctor, I didn’t know how to explain what was wrong with me. I felt that I must improve my English and one day I will explain to my Doctor properly.”
“My niece and nephew said – you don’t speak Auntie, why are you here, you don’t speak English. I was very sad, so I thought I must improve my English”
She also didn’t like the abuse she was getting from others and being referred to as a “Paki” seemingly because she couldn’t speak the language. Her motivation was high and she was determined to do something about it. She signed up for regular English lessons at JET on Normanton Road. She followed a regime of lessons 5 days a week for 4 hours a day. The normal lesson would have been 1.5 hrs but she wanted to take extra time as she was keen to make quick progress.
In the 3 months since she started she has made significant progress. In addition to the formal class room time she practiced throughout the day challenging herself to use her skills whenever she could. These encounters identified the relevant gaps in her knowledge and her English Teachers could work with her to overcome these. One example she mentioned was about going into Primark and understanding how to ask for different sizes of clothes from the shop assistant. Each occasion was an achievement and helped with her confidence.
At the end of October she attended a celebration event at JET for all of the people who had successfully completed a course of study. This was attended by the Mayor of Derby, representatives of the Funders, her Teachers, and many other people who had been on the course. She was one of the few who made a brief presentation at the front of the room; an experience which can be nerve-wracking for anyone, but more impressive for someone in Imrana’s position.
She was very clear from the outset that without a knowledge of the language she would not get work and that was not considered acceptable by her. Since finishing her studies she has secured a job at the Derby City Council as a part-time care assistant looking after an elderly, obese English woman, who needs personal attention in her home. This is a small step on the employment ladder and she has high aspirations for the future – ultimately she wants to go into banking.
Now she understands the language, her life in Derby is really starting
“Now I speak English – I feel great”