By David Amaya
For thousands of overseas students, Melbourne’s CBD is a hub to improve their English and experience a new life.
Felipe Cotrino and Ali Almazani are from different countries with different cultures, but they share something in common: they travelled thousands of kilometres to come to Melbourne to learn English and to get new skills for their professional future.
Both are among the 13,000 people with student visas who chose to study English in Melbourne during the first semester of 2017, according to the Australian Government Department of Education and Training.
The department’s statistics further show that 35 schools offered English language services in Melbourne. As many of those education providers are located in the centre of the city, the CBD has become a huge English classroom for students like Mr Cotrino and Mr Almazani.
“I learn grammar at school but the best way to improve my listening and my speaking is outside the building,” said Mr Cotrino, a Colombian student who arrived in Melbourne two years ago.
Activities such as dinners and walks improve his English and he enjoys the Melbourne lifestyle.
‘“Sometimes I go to a bar in King St that every Wednesday organises an English conversation club,” Mr Cotrino said.
He explained that speakers wore on their shirt a small flag of their country to identify their nationality to possible new friends.
“It is an informal activity where people are drinking some beers and eating something in a friendly environment that make you feel comfortable to speak in English regardless of your level,” he said.
Mr Almazani, who came from Saudi Arabia one year ago, enjoys these kinds of activities as well. He usually attends the English conversation clubs in local CBD churches.
“The experience in the CBD obligates me to understand the accent of people from different cultures,” Mr Almazani said.
He said he could easily understand the accents of people from Turkey and Colombia, whereas Mr Cotrino is more able to understand Japanese and Thai accents.
Even thought Mr Almazani doesn’t live in the CBD, he spends most of his time in here and it has been the reason why his second language skills have improved.
“I live in a suburb located 30 minutes by train. I don’t see too many people to speak with in my neighbourhood but the CBD is the heart of everything and I can go any cafe or park and start a conversation with someone new,” he said.
Mr Cotrino lives in the CBD which allows him to be in contact with overseas people all of the time.
“My flatmates are from the Philippines and Italy so we are obliged to communicate in English,” he said.
He also said living in the CBD made his life easier. “I don’t spend time or money on transportation to go to school and also my job is close to my home,” Mr Cotrino said.