Research and Practice in Adult Literacy – a friendly group

Dennis Shum

Dennis Shum, Glenroy Neighbourhood Learning Centre


In 1977, for my first steps in Australia, a lot of my family told me not to worry about English, because here were so many Chinese shops that I can go shopping by myself without English, and I can just work in a Chinese cafe in the kitchen. That is why I can live here very well with my poor English. I had my own business as well, where both my sons helped me.

Five years ago, I had to finish my business and sell my shop because my sons have their new goals. They don’t want to work at the restaurant forever. After I finished my business, I tried to go to Centrelink and told them that I had no job. At this time I found I was so useless to do anything. When Centrelink interviewed me, I had to use the interpreter to help. Then the Centrelink people said to me, why not come back to school again and learn some English. At first I was so scared. I thought that a fifty-eight year old man still can learn. I did as they suggested.

I started going to school, learning writing and speaking English. I kept doing it for about a year. One day, I got an appointment at Centrelink, but they didn’t give me the interpreter and they said: “Do it yourself.” With a no-choice situation, I just tried to do it. After the interview, the Centrelink staff said that my English is not too bad. I understand ‘not too bad’ means still bad. I know my English journey still has a long way to go, but who cares; I will keep going to school and keep learning.

Sometimes when the Centrelink staff say to me “your English is better than before”, I feel so confident. Another confidence is that I can go shopping to a lot of shops; many kinds of shops, not only Chinese ones. Also I can ask the shopkeeper what I want and they can show me where to get it.

I find that my world is getting bigger. I’m happier than before.

I remember one of the stupid sayings is: “learning has no ending.” It looks so funny, but it’s true. So I choose to follow it. I know this is the only way to re-birth myself. It is another kind of power.


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