Saturday, March 17, 2007

Do your students have English-speaking friends?

During a trip to Stratford, while were strolling downtown, we came across a company of three: a Canadian woman, a Chinese woman and her son in his early teens. They had come together in a car and obviously the Canadian woman was showing her Chinese friends around this cultured town. The Canadian woman was explaining things (including English usage and the nativity story) as they went into Ten Thousand Villages where we were. I was deeply moved, and wished that we could see more of this friendship happening between our ESL students and established members of our society.

Here is a link to a community program already in place where Canadians can volunteer to befriend newcomers by meeting together once or twice a week, just to talk, go places and help with practical needs:

http://www.settlement.org/sys/faqs_detail.asp?faq_id=4000522

This host program does not involve money or living arrangements but simply aims to provide emotional and social support to newcomers to Canada, which can make a huge difference in their early days (up to the first year) in this new country.

As ESL teachers, here is what I think we can do:

a) We can point students to the existence of this and similar programs and encourage participation.

b) We can initiate friendship-building opportunities in our churches where there is a mix of newcomers and Canadians.

c) And, just as important, we can keep stressing to our students the importance of new, cross-cultural friendships outside the classroom, which will not only help them immensely in their language learning but will also benefit them in their settlement process, and enrich them personally for the long term.

- Jennifer

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