How Immersion + Instruction Helps You Learn English Faster

CultureWorks students practising their vocabulary in the classroom
CultureWorks students practising their vocabulary in the classroom

Deciding to learn a new language PLUS move to new country may seem like a lot to take on for some ESL students. But the truth is, moving to Canada to enrol in an ESL program makes the whole language-learning process so much easier than you might think – and faster!

Research shows that language immersion combined with classroom instruction is the ESL student’s fast track to fluency – and admission into the Canadian university program of your choice.

Read on to learn exactly why immersion combined with classes is the best way to reach your ESL learning goals.

Immersion in Canada Builds Confidence and Fluency

Being immersed in a language means that you are surrounded by native speakers. You’ll use your developing English skills on a daily basis as you buy your groceries, browse through a bookstore, grab a coffee, go to the movies, or hang out in the student lounge on campus. You will listen, absorb, and speak English all the time. Immersion means you HAVE to use English, which may at first seem a bit intimidating, but will quickly help you build confidence and better language skills.

CultureWorks students get comfortable using English in various social settings

Immersion also helps you learn how Canadians really speak. At an ESL program in Canada, students meet locals on campus, get involved in the community, and take sight-seeing trips. This helps them develop fluency and sound like a native speaker themselves – much more so than if they learned English back home from a book, computer program or local school!

ESL Teachers Take Your English to the Next Level

Immersion is great for building fluency and confidence, but without expert teachers, students will have a difficult time developing the grammar, writing, and comprehension skills they will need in university. After all, if you’re taking English courses for western university because you want to major in Business, you will definitely need to know how to write an essay, do research and make presentations in English before starting school! On its own, immersion can’t help you build those specialized skills.

CultureWorks students practice their conversations skills in class
CultureWorks students practice their conversations skills in class

The strong foundation you build in ESL class COMBINED with every-day practise is really what makes the magic happen.

If you’re planning to study English in Canada, it’s important to choose an ESL program that has both experienced instructors and plenty of opportunities for getting involved in the local community. And that’s the real secret to learning English faster, and getting prepared for success at university.

What other techniques do you think help students learn English quickly?

Feeling Homesick? 5 Solutions for International Students

CultureWorks end of term party in London, Ontario
CultureWorks end of term party in London, Ontario

Studying abroad is an exciting – and challenging – transition for students who leave their home country to pursue English studies and attend university in Canada. One they arrive, international students must contend with unfamiliar surroundings, a whole new culture, tons of new faces – and the realization that their friends and family are thousands of miles away!

We know that plenty of CultureWorks students miss their home while they’re studying abroad, so we’ve put together these five simple tips to make the transition a little easier, help you settle in, and really get the most out of your time in Canada.

1. Know that Feeling Homesick is Normal

Up to 70 per cent of international students will experience homesickness at some point while studying abroad. It’s completely normal for human beings to miss their old routines, family and friends when traveling far from home. No one should feel ashamed or regret their decision to study in Canada because they occasionally feel homesick. All you need is a few go-to strategies to help you smile, feel better and get involved with your new surroundings. And that’s where the next four solutions come in….

2. Connect with Other Students in Your ESL Program

It might be tough to admit feeling homesick to fellow students in your ESL program, but keeping your thoughts to yourself, or staying alone in your room is definitely not a good idea. Talk to your classmates about missing home, and you’ll probably find out that they’re feeling the same way too! Reach out to a classmate who has traveled to study English in Canada from the same country or city as you – sharing stories will help you feel less isolated.

CultureWorks students get to know each other at the Oshawa holiday party
CultureWorks students get to know each other at the Oshawa holiday party

3. Stay in Touch with Family and Friends

A great way to combat homesickness is to stay in touch with family and friends via Skype once or twice a week. Setting up a regular schedule of video chats gives new international students something to rely on and look forward to while they’re adjusting to new surroundings. Plus, telling family and friends all about what you’re doing and learning here in Canada will make them proud, remind you of why you traveled abroad in the first place – and put a smile on your face.

CultureWorks students visit the African Lion Safari outside of London, Ontario
CultureWorks students visit the African Lion Safari outside of London, Ontario

4. Explore Your New Surroundings

Part of what causes homesickness is feeling “out of place”. International students who feel lost and alone in their new surroundings should get out there and explore. Walk around campus, visit hotspots in your new city, and try out public transportation. With GPS and Google Maps it’s practically impossible to get lost – and chances are, your ESL school will plan several guided trips to help you feel more at home and learn your way around.

CultureWorks students at a potluck dinner at the Oshawa campus
CultureWorks students at a potluck dinner at the Oshawa campus

5. Cook Your Favorite Food

Cooking your favourite food can help ward off homesickness by bringing a little taste of home to your new life in Canada. Most local grocery stores have international food sections where you will find a wide range of imported ingredients. Your classmates who are also learning English as a second language would probably be open to the idea of a potluck night where everyone brings a dish to share. If you’re not the best cook in world, this would be the perfect time to take notes from mom the next time you talk over Skype!

What tips do YOU suggest for handling homesickness while you study abroad?

4 Tips for Getting Social in a Second Language

CultureWorks students get social at the end of term party
CultureWorks students get social at the end of term party

Meeting new people can be intimidating even when you all speak the same language. Speaking up in a language you barely know? Now that can be downright terrifying! But taking the time to get social both inside and outside of the classroom is one of the best things students can do when learning English as a second language in Canada. Socializing gives you the chance to perfect your conversation skills, prepare for success in university, and develop a supportive network of new friends.

Here are 4 simple tips to get you started on getting social in a second language:

1. Start With Your English Language Classes

The most effective ESL programs go beyond rote memorization by creating opportunities for students to have meaningful exchanges in a comfortable and nurturing setting. For example, at CultureWorks students participate in simple debates, practice back-and-forth conversations, and learn how to give presentations and speak in front of a group. Enriched activities like these work as terrific confidence builders because they teach students how to speak up and respond spontaneously – without dictionaries or memory aids.

A CultureWorks student practises speaking in front of the class
A CultureWorks student practises speaking in front of the class

2. Get Used to Being Outside Your Comfort Zone

Let’s say that you are taking English courses for Western University because you want to study Business, start your own company, and work with international clients. Once you graduate and start your career, you will have to attend important meetings, give presentations, and write reports – all in English. The best way to get comfortable pulling off advanced tasks like these is to take small steps now, and push beyond your ESL comfort zone.

Start with something simple like ordering a muffin at a coffee shop, or chatting in English with your classmates. At first it might feel intimidating, but over time you’ll get used to those small exchanges and move on to bigger conversations – like which business trends you find most interesting, and which stocks you would invest in!

CultureWorks students get social on the Western University campus
CultureWorks students get social on the Western University campus

3. Practise Answers to Common Questions

Although your goal is natural conversation in English, preparing and practising answers to common questions can really take the stress out of those first interactions. Some typical questions you can prepare for include:

  • Where do you come from?
  • How do you like Canada so far?
  • What are you planning to study in university?

As you get more comfortable, you will no longer need to repeat your memorized responses – and can start having more spontaneous and advanced interactions.

4. Put Yourself in Situations Where You’ll Meet New People

When you study English in Canada at CultureWorks you’ll have plenty of opportunities to participate in social events. From cultural festivals and team sports to day trips off campus to explore local surroundings – every event offers chances to practice your growing English skills and build new friendships. Even if you’re feeling shy, participate in every activity. It’s the best way to build your confidence and practise some of the tips you’ve learned in this post.

CultureWorks students learn a sport Canadians love called Curling
CultureWorks students learn a sport Canadians love called Curling

Getting social in a second language can feel intimidating, but take heart. Canadians are known for their kindness and will be more than happy to explain new vocabulary, repeat a question, or help out if you forget a word.

How else would you practise your English while meeting new people?

Culture Works Hotspot: Amanda Furnis, Oshawa Campus Registrar

Study English in Canada
Amanda Furnis, Culture Works Registrar, Oshawa Campus

As Canada’s leading ESL program, we at Culture Works recognize that our exceptional and dedicated staff members are truly the foundation of our success. Our instructors and administration have managed to foster an environment in which students always come first, building the confidence and skills they need to reach their language learning goals.

This week on the Culture Works Hotspot, we talk with Amanda Furnis: avid traveller, proud mom, and an integral part of the Culture Works team since 2009. Read on to find out a little more about Amanda, and to hear firsthand about her rewarding role as Registrar at our Durham College Oshawa campus.

1) In your Registrar role – what is the best part of the job?  

Meeting new students on the first day of school! Some students really struggle to arrive with all of the right paperwork, have to deal with immigration issues, and decide where to live – all while being away from their family. I speak to some of these students on a daily basis via email, answering all of their questions and trying to help them make the transition to Culture Works. To see them finally arrive to study English in Canada is very exciting!

Culture Works
Amanda with Culture Works students at an Oshawa campus event

2) How many different countries do we have students applying to our program from?

Right now in Oshawa we have students applying from 26 different countries.

3) What advice do you have for students applying to a Culture Works ESL program? Are there any particular questions about the process that come up often?  

My advice to students applying to our school is to always answer our emails!  We send very important questions to prepare for each student’s arrival, and sometimes students wait to reply to us when they don’t have an immediate answer to our questions. For example, if you would like to live in one of our homestays, please answer our email about homestays and let us know so we can make the necessary arrangements.

If you don’t have your flight arrival date, don’t wait to reply until you know the answer to that question – just write us back letting us know you received our email and will provide the details as soon as possible. The sooner we know your arrival details, the smoother your arrival will be!

CW students
Culture Works students from Brazil, Syria and South Korea at an Oshawa campus event

4) When you’re not helping students settle in at Culture Works, what are you doing?  Do you have any hobbies and why do you like doing them?

My hobbies include playing soccer, shopping, and writing for my lifestyle blog I am ALWAYS planning a trip – I am always travelling.

5)  If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would you choose and why?   

My toddler because he usually makes really good dinner conversation! He asks me a lot of questions, he usually eats for free, and he always gets dessert included with his meals, which he shares with me.

6)  What is your favorite aspect of Canadian culture and why?

I love that Canadians are really polite and patient – except when it comes to the things we are passionate about. We usually only get feisty when it comes to a long Tim Horton’s line or a hockey game. I have travelled all over Europe, and seen people from other countries pretend to be Canadian so they would be treated more nicely. And like they say, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery!

Thanks, Amanda for sharing a little about yourself this week. Culture Works is proud to have you as a caring and committed first point of contact for our students.

Are you hoping to take English course for Durham College – or for one of Culture Works’ other partner universities?

Apply now and one of our registrars will help you get started!

The DC/UOIT Pathway!


Being a CultureWorks EAP student just got a whole lot sweeter!

Durham College and UOIT (University of Ontario Institute of Technology) have announced an exciting new academic collaboration called PATHWAYS.  This allows Durham College students to complete 2 years of their Diploma and apply their credits toward a UOIT Degree.  How awesome is that?!

Select programs apply; Business, Accounting and Computer Programming are popular choices. You can see the full list here: and here.

There are obvious advantages to the Pathways option:

  • Receive acceptance to DC and a conditional offer to UOIT at the same time
  • Reach your goals in less time – earn both an applied college diploma, and a university degree
  • Save tuition costs
  • Complete your education on one campus
  • Learn from both college and university experts


We know you’ve come to study in Canada to receive the highest-quality education – innovative programs like this prepare students for their academic and professional careers.

Durham College and UOIT are only a short distance from safe, beautiful and exciting Toronto, one of the most multicultural cities in the world.

From your EAP preparation at CultureWorks, you will already know everything you need to know in a student-life experience  ~ to balance your studies with culture outside the classroom.