Five tips for helping Ukrainian refugees learn English

Five tips for helping Ukrainian refugees learn English

by | Jun 28, 2022 | Blog

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Hosting and helping Ukrainian refugees can be an amazing experience, but also really challenging. If the refugee you are hosting doesn’t have much English, then these five tips for helping Ukrainian refugees learn English should be really useful. You’ll help build their confidence quickly and get them speaking confidently.

Tips for helping Ukrainian refugees with English

Tip 1 Rather than Google Translate, use the sayhi app instead. It’s available on the Apple, Google or Amazon App stores. It allows for a quick translation from English to Ukrainian and vice versa, with text-to-speech and automatic speech translation functions. Simple to use, with male/female voices and can say words slower or faster. You’ll need an internet connection, but it’s a great starting point.

Tip 2 Get them to start a notebook for everyday vocabulary. However, why don’t you do the same for Ukrainian words you learn along the way? It will show your commitment to helping them learn. Try to learn 3-4 new words every day.  It will also help you understand the learning process as well.

Tip 3 Ask your refugee what they would like to learn first. This puts them at the centre of the experience and gives them a degree of say in the direction of travel for language learning. Just get going with the very basics in English early on. Things you see around you, everyday words they will need to know. These very general things (directions, objects, food etc.) are so essential to day-to-day living and communication.

Tip 4 Pace yourself, this is a long journey. Plan and think ahead. What’s happening tomorrow? What English would be useful to have?

Tip 5 If you have started with an app for translation, don’t become overly reliant on it. Try to move on to basic conversation soon. By incrementally building up the conversation (and trying to have them speak to different people) you’ll be helping them get accustomed to everyday life here. Refugees will need human interaction to help them overcome feelings of loneliness and isolation, as they acclimatise to their new environment. It’s fine to still use apps for more important or emotional language so that lack of English won’t be quite such a barrier. However, as they progress do look to provide words for emotions or feelings – this will be helpful and empowering.

Key takeaways

So those are our five tips for starting out. What do you think? If you have any ideas please share them in the link below.

Our two big takeaways:

1) It’s okay and indeed useful to use technology, especially initially. However, it is also important to move away from it gradually, so that communication becomes more natural.

2) Not all second-language speakers feel comfortable or even want to progress quickly, so be ready to go at their pace. There may be trauma issues that present as you go along, so be sensitive and remember, learning English is a marathon, not a sprint.


These five tips for helping Ukrainian refugees learn English are part of the Essential English module on the Enter English course, a new course from Christian TEFL designed to help families hosting Ukrainian refugees and groups supporting other refugees get started with English language learning. In that module, we look at teaching beginners, functional English and building up everyday vocabulary.

August update: the course is open for booking now and places are going quickly, so if you are hosting a refugee or looking to get trained for international café for September, enrol today here.


Image courtesy of Alexandra Koch



  1. Paul LeRoux

    VERY useful! Thank you.

  2. Julia Badza

    Thank you for your advice. I’m living in a Scottish village + have Ukraine visitors staying with us.

    I’d appreciate any materials that you have which can help them with Conversational English.

  3. Florence Binions

    Thank you. I start language classes for Ukrainian refugees tomorrow dv. I am a retired primary teacher, so have been thrown in at the deep end.
    I live in Cork, Ireland. Is your course accessible to those outside the UK?

    • William Bradridge

      Hello Florence,
      Thanks very much for your message. At the moment it’s only available in the UK, but we are hoping to make it available internationally in 2023. In the meantime, our 70 hr Introduction to ESOL course would be potentially helpful for you as we go deeper into some of the ways we can help our learners. Here’s a link:
      Kind regards,


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