Cambodian Khunly Hak was a chemistry teacher back home and the only thing stopping her from teaching in Northland is a lack of English.

But she isn't sitting on her laurels.

The 44-year-old mother of three is determined to return to the profession she loves and has enrolled to study the universal language at English Language Partners in Whangārei.

She first came Whangārei on her second visit to New Zealand in 2016 and stayed with a Cambodian friend for two weeks. Hak returned to Cambodia but came back to Whangārei and married a local Thai.

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She also enrolled her son at Whangārei Boys High School and started work at a Cambodian bakery.

Hak was a chemistry teacher for 20 years and said she'd love to go back to teaching after learning English.

English Language Partners centre manager for Northland, Megan Cochrane, said Hak was typical of many professional and well-educated migrants who enrolled to learn English.

Hak could fill the enrolment form with the help of her son early this year but couldn't speak English, she said. She needed to study for another two years before she was fluent in English, Cochrane said.

She said the Festival of Adult Learning organised at the centre on September 6 was a way of acknowledging the huge gain made by learners as well as those volunteering as home tutors.

Megan Cochrane, left, with Kumiko Shimizu from Japan at the Festival of Adult Learning in Whangārei. Photo/John Stone
Megan Cochrane, left, with Kumiko Shimizu from Japan at the Festival of Adult Learning in Whangārei. Photo/John Stone

"They work very much behind the scenes to help migrants achieve what they've come to do in New Zealand," Cochrane said.

The centre has had 90 learners so far this year. Cochrane said 30 learners and tutors were given certificates at the Festival of Adult Learning. There are about 10 Cambodian families living in Northland.