Help with English Language for Ukrainian refugees
For Ukrainian visa holders, there are a number of options to improve your English, such as in person and online classes. Translation tools and apps can also be used to communicate effectively.
The best way to improve your English is to practise speaking, listening, reading and writing at every opportunity. We do recommend finding at least one weekly class where you can learn in a classroom setting, as you will meet other people in a similar situation and feel encouraged (as well as it being a useful networking opportunity to make friends and connections).
If you need help translating documents for example, we also give some options.
On this page
- English levels
- English classes provided through local councils
- English classes at libraries
- English classes at further education colleges
- Other face to face English class options
- STEP Ukraine – English classes and employment support
- Free online English classes for Ukrainian refugees
- Language translation tools
- Translation services
This webpage gives an overview of the different types of language frameworks you may come across.
The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL) defines proficiency levels in terms of A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2, each level getting progressively more proficient. Typically, in formal English classes offered to adult migrants here, you’ll be studying English as a Second Language (ESOL), which is referenced in terms of Pre-Entry, Entry level 1, Entry level 2, Entry level 3, Level 1 and Level 2. These are mapped to each other as follows:
- Pre A1 = Pre-Entry
- A1 (Basic user) = Entry level 1
- A2 (Basic user) = Entry level 2
- B1 (Independent user) = Entry level 3
- B2 (Independent user) = Level 1
- C1 (Proficient user) = Level 2
See also https://odils.com/grades-for-learning-english-language/ for a useful mapping of different frameworks, including IELTS. The British Council also provide a mapping guide between frameworks here.
People should initially be assessed as to their level of English and then placed in an appropriate class.
English classes provided through local councils
Each local council will have their own provision for English classes, so contact your local council in the first instance to see what they have to offer. These classes will generally be held in the daytime in classroom settings, so won’t be suitable once you start work. The classes will be delivered by organisations working in partnership with the council.
Avoid paying; your local council is obliged to support you with free English classes but they may have a waiting list.
NOTE: Even though councils receive £10000 per individual arriving under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, some councils may be using this to fund extra English classes, whereas others may not.
English classes at libraries
It’s worth checking if local libraries are offering free English classes. These may be for mixed groups i.e. not just for Ukrainians. Some can be held in the evenings.
English classes at further education colleges
Local further education colleges may be offering English classes. These are usually entitled ESOL classes – English For Speakers of Other Languages. They will also offer classes that lead to other formal qualifications such as GCSE English (the standard for secondary school level).
Classes should be free for those Ukrainian visa holders who are on low incomes. They will assess your level of English before you can enrol for a class. Classes normally run during term time i.e. September to December, break for Christmas, January to March or April, break for Easter, April to July, break for summer holidays.
There are evening class options which are more appropriate if you work.
You can add your level of English achieved through any formal tests to your CV for employers.
Other face to face English class options
Local organisations may be offering free English classes for refugees. For example, try Googling ‘Language schools near me’. You may need to ask them to apply for funding for you from local charities or refugee organisations, as they might be generally set up to receive fees from international students.
Local community groups set up to support Ukrainians may have arranged for volunteers to provide English classes. Search on Facebook for your nearest group, or contact the refugee support team at your local council. Some of these may be in the evenings, and there may be the option to bring your children to be looked after by other volunteers while you learn.
STEP Ukraine – English classes and employment support
15/08/23: The Government has just announced a new programme called STEP Ukraine, in partnership with World Jewish Relief and the British Council.
Details of this programme can be accessed here: https://www.worldjewishrelief.org/stepukraine/. The programme consists of:
- An intensive 10 weeks of 2.5 hour daily English classes by the British Council, with options to take the lessons morning, afternoon or evening
- 12 weeks of weekly employment support with a dedicated employment advisor, to support with: CV writing, job applications, interview prep, support with job search, and specialist workshops
- All classes are remote, and teacher led. They are streamed so you will be with classmates at a similar level.
To apply, you can fill in the referral form on the website, or call the number given, 0800 319 6089.
Free online English classes for Ukrainian refugees
Some people may find it difficult to get to daytime English classes, especially if they are working.
- There are some introductory online courses being offered by the Open University for Ukrainians: Free online resources for Ukrainians settling in the UK and Ireland – OpenLearn – Open University
- There are also some free and cheap courses being offered by the British Council: Learn English Online | British Council. They also have an app called ‘IELTS Prep’ (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.britishcouncil.ieltsprep), which you can use to prepare for IELTS tests.
- There are also free ESOL classes offered online here: https://www.esolcourses.com/.
- There is also a recommended free Youtube channel called ‘OK English’ (https://www.youtube.com/@ok-english), which offers lessons and tests for elementary (A1) to advanced (C2) levels. See https://www.youtube.com/@ok-english. The first video under ‘Home’ explains how to use the material. You can search for the channel which is appropriate for your level such as ‘OK English Elementary’ and subscribe to it.
Language translation tools
For online translation, people are using web translation tools such as Google Translate.
There are also plugins for WhatsApp which allow you to set your guest’s language, you type a message in WhatsApp in English and there is a button to allow automatic translation to Ukrainian; equally, someone can type in Ukrainian and you will receive in English. E.g. LangLang is one such translator: Translator for WhatsApp – Apps on Google Play (note: it sometimes gets the translation a bit wrong).
SayHi Translate (SayHi Translate – Apps on Google Play) allows you to speak in your language and select a language for your words to be output as text which you can then copy and paste into other apps.
DeepL (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.deepl.mobiletranslator) gets good recommendations as being close to native translations.
DuoLingo app gets good reviews for learning English (and Ukrainian!)
Viber has built in translation functionality also and messages exchanged are visible in both languages.
For translation services, you can refer to the following organisation: https://charitytranslators.org/ – they have a specific page for Ukraine: https://charitytranslators.org/LinksforUkraine with many useful links.
They provide a list of organisations that can offer translation services, some for free: https://charitytranslators.org/LinksforUkraine#Support
They also provide details on how to translate Ukrainian documents such as birth, marriage, divorce and death certificates: https://charitytranslators.org/LinksforUkraine#ModelDocs