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I’ve often wondered whether EU funded adult education projects are not just about their alleged subject matter – but much more about sharing languages across our difficult and contentious continent.

A few years ago July we participated in an EU funded programme, Forests for All. As well as taking a day trip around the Mersey Forest (starting at Wirral Waters where there were no forests at all and ending up in Delamere Forest where there was plenty to look up to), many participants also massively improved their language skills, testified to best perhaps by the teacher, Alina, from Romania.

We asked her to write a short story in her own words about her experiences on the project and this is what she wrote.

This is not just a story. It is a part of my life. In high school I’ve studied the Russian language for 4 years. Our country back then was dominated by the communism and Ceausescu forced the students from most of the schools to study this language instead of English.

After the communism, the English language appeared everywhere: on TV, on the radio, in the cinema… I was fascinated by this new sound and I learned it all by myself from movies and especially from music.

For 20 years, I have never spoken English, never! I was able to understand it, but I haven’t had the courage to actually say a word. I tried to learn it from books, but I never passed the second lesson; I preferred to learn it only from what I heard.

In this project, in October 2011, it was the first time when I spoke English in public. I can’t explain where my courage came from. For me and mostly for my Romanian colleagues, it was a big surprise, one of the biggest of my life.

You, all my partners from this project, you didn’t laugh, you have encouraged me. I know I make a lot of mistakes, my accent is wrong, but you never stopped me and this means a lot to me.

Thank you for your patience, for listening to me; I’ve learned a lot from you and each one of you is important to me perhaps only for a word or for a joke or for a new expression. You’ve been my English teachers, the best I could have had.

When Nick asked me to write this story, I was terrified! I don’t know if it’s correct, but it is my real story, a story from the bottom of my heart and it could be the story of any Romanian girl who found from nowhere the trust in her own forces and mind.

There’s more of these stories to hear about in the months coming up to the UK Brexit referendum.  Please feel free to share them here.