Words from a Speak English Café VIP

Words from a Speak English Café VIP

I am Tony, from China. I have been in Yellowknife since April 2019. In the beginning of the days when I got here, I looked for ways to improve my English skills. Once I went to the library and saw a poster for the Speak English Café, pinned on a wall. Fortunately this program was especially for new immigrants and it was free. Absolutely I had no reason to let this opportunity go, so I took part in this program and I have been a VIP member.

I have studied English since I was a grade 6 student in China. At that time, as a Chinese teenager, most of us were studying English just to get a good mark and be able to go through “Gaokao” (National Higher Education Entrance Examination) and finally be a student of a college or university. This was the goal for every youth. To learn English, we did schoolwork, homework, testing, examination, then redid them in the next grade. The result of this teaching style leads to Chinese students who are good at reading English, then writing, and they are very poor at listening and speaking in English.

As time went on I experienced several sessions of the Speak English Café. Oh my goodness, how could it make learning English so interesting. We had many field trips to learn more about local animals, plants, geography and how to deal with emergencies in wild places. We were together to watch a lot of movies in English and shared our thoughts about them. Sometimes it was about Indigenous culture, sometimes we talked about classic animation in movies, and sometimes the teacher showed us videos about local traditional festivals and customs. 

Happiness was not only limited to these.  There is a Global Cooking program for our new immigrants. We frequently met in a church’s kitchen and one of us cooked his or her native food. The rest of us would be the main cook’s assistants, then we would share the delicious food together. Yummy! We have been family.

Unfortunately, this spring the new corona virus unprecedentedly attacked humans across the world. In Canada, we lost our original lives, lots of people lost jobs, most of us had to stay isolated in our home day after day……

On one day in April, I got an email from Karen, who is in charge of both programs. She told us we could learn English on Zoom online. Though we were not able to meet and talk, hug and joke, at least we might see one another on the screen (face to face) and speak English with our accents online.

In Speak English Café, my English skills improved progressively; meanwhile, I made so many friends. Some of them are from different countries and some of them are volunteers. More than this, I learned very much knowledge about countries, religions, culture, and nature.

Karen likes calling me Mr. Question; sometimes she said I was fussy, because I want to know the specifics of English language, lol.  Anyway, this is my style for learning English in the programs, and I cannot wait to return to them after our society reopens.

- Tony Wang, Speak English Café participant

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