On Apr. 8 at the Northwest Community College (NWCC) in Houston, local residents who have immigrated to Canada attended an open house for English as a Second Language (ESL).
The range of community members spread from those that have been in Houston for 53 years to those that just recently arrived four months ago.
The purpose of this open house was to allow NWCC and Houston Link to Learning to gather information on what servicesthese organizations could provide to alleviate struggles for those residents in Houston whose native language is not English,and help ease their transition into the community.
Many people expressed a great difficulty in getting out of the house and building the confidence to interact and converse withnative English speakers. Others talked about the shock to the system they felt transitioning to such a cold climate. Everyonealso talked about the novelty of seeing snow for the first time, and their close encounters with bears.
Sandi Lavallie, instructor at the Houston NWCC, said that in the Teaching English as a Second Language course, they learn thatthere is a honeymoon period when non-native English speaking people come to a country like Canada, and was surprised tolearn that for most of the people in the room they did not have this experience.
Depending on their situation and circumstances, immigrating to Canada for others was a chance to access more careeropportunities for themselves and their families.
Out of the 10 participants, only four spoke English when they first came to Canada. But even for those four people, adjustingto the Canadian accent took some time as they were used to being instructed by someone with a British accent when theywere learning English back in India.
In the past, the NWCC has held informal conversation groups for non-native English speakers to participate in, to helpdevelop their conversational skills.
Those at the ESL gathering who have previously attended the conversation groups said that they were a fun way to socializeand foster an enjoyment to speak English.
Having an ESL service or program that created meaningful participation and maintained interest seemed to be the overallfeedback at the meeting.
The next gathering for ESL for residents will be at the NWCC on Saturday May 6 at 11 a.m. There will be an international potluck where everyone is encouraged to make a small appetizer of one of their traditional meals.