Even the family cats join new CultureWorks student and her parents in making the move from Colombia to Canada.

Natalia Parra (left) is a CultureWorks ESL student in London, Ont., and her parents, Julio and Nelly, joined her in the move from Bogota in the Republic of Colombia. Not to be left behind --two other family members, Merengue (yellow) and Candonga (black and white) -- also elected to make Canada home
Natalia Parra (left) is a CultureWorks ESL student in London, Ont., and her parents, Julio and Nelly, joined her in the move from Bogota in the Republic of Colombia. Not to be left behind --two other family members, Merengue (yellow) and Candonga (black and white) -- also elected to make Canada home
Natalia Parra (left) is a CultureWorks ESL student in London, Ont., and her parents, Julio and Nelly, joined her in the move from Bogota in the Republic of Colombia. Not to be left behind –two other family members, Merengue (yellow) and Candonga (black and white) — also elected to make Canada home

Two months ago, Natalia Parra, 25, and her parents, Julio and Nelly, left Bogota in the Republic of Colombia for perhaps the final time.

Merengue and Candonga were allowed to stay longer in the South American country of 50 million. They arrived last week.

Merengue is yellow; Candonga is black and white. They are the family cats.

Natalia is a student in the CultureWorks ESL program in London, Ont., soon to enter Level 6. She is determined, charming, intelligent, but really not certain where her life is headed.

“Right now, I am not sure if I will return to Colombia,” Natalia said in a recent discussion. “I am not sure. Maybe in the future, but right now my home is here. I am with my parents, so it’s easier, the new life.”

Choosing to move to Canada

Unlike a traditional family move, Natalia acknowledged the decision was connected with some personal challenges in Colombia and had little to do with the work status of her 48-year-old mother, Nelly, and 53-year-old father, Julio.

Natalia has a business degree in the not-always-peaceful country she and her parents — and cats — are leaving behind.

While Natalia is attending CultureWorks, her parents are looking for work in their new country. Her mother is a nurse; her father a pet nutritionist for cats and dogs. They are also working on their English.

“Here, they are improving their level of English because it is necessary if they want to find something to work at in their fields,” Natalia said.

Natalia talks about what it’s like to study English in Canada

Meanwhile, Natalia is also taking on the challenge of learning English as a second language. She is winning, her CultureWorks teachers tell her, but she is not always certain.

Natalia talks about her ESL studies at CultureWorks. “Here it is like I am learning to speak again. So I feel like a baby, a kid that only says blah, blah, blah.”

“Here in Canada, the first days were terrible. The weather was different, the language was different, everything was different. So it was difficult, but with time, I am improving my English. I improve my ability to be here, so I think that I am good, but I am trying to do better things here.

“I hope that I can improve my level in English, especially in grammar and pronunciation, because, it is very difficult for me.”

She will survive the English battle.

“Oh my God, actually last night, I was thinking about how I am not sure who I am because here I am a different person. For example, in Colombia, I have a degree, so for me in Spanish it is very easy to write an essay.

“Here, it is like I am learning to speak again, so I feel like a baby, a kid that says only blah, blah, blah. I feel like that here in Canada. Everything has changed. Everything.

Natalia has a somewhat different best friend in London and Canada.

“For me, here in Canada, my best friend is Google Maps. It is my best friend. It is my favourite tool in life.”

Joel Melton, one of Natalia’s CultureWorks ESL teachers, says she is “learning to embrace this new culture and take the good with the bad.”

Natalia discusses her love of Colombia and Canada

She plans to attend either University of Toronto or Western when she completes her CultureWorks English for university study program and moves to a Masters degree.

Natalia has also every intention of helping Colombia improve its status.

“I am very sad, because it is my country, because I study political science, because I want to help build a better country, but I cannot. But I can’t, I can’t,” she said.

Natalia has not lost the love of her country, in fact, far from it.

“I want to say that Colombia is more than drugs. People think that Colombia is only drugs and no, Colombia is a beautiful place with beautiful people,” she said.

“We have many, many beautiful places, delicious food … we are a people that every day wakes up for work to make the world a better place.”

And thoughts about Canada?

“I am happy. I am so happy. Canada is a beautiful country. It’s very friendly. I love Canada. I am very happy to be here, very happy.

“I have a challenge, but I am OK. I hope that I am OK …

Her teachers vote yes.

Would you like to study English in Canada?

Find out how CultureWorks can help.

Punjabi student adapts after a little help from her family and the teachers and students at our ESL school

Harpreet (left front) enjoys a London, Ont., sushi dinner with her parents, her sister and brother, and her sister’s children.

 

Harpreet says the CultureWorks teaching style is much more suitable to her than the classes back in the Punjab.

Harpreet Kaur is 22 and a new student in the CultureWorks ESL program in London, Ont.

She is also the only current CW student from Punjab, a state bordering Pakistan in the heart of India’s Sikh community. Punjab, itself, has two-thirds of the population of Canada.

Starting in Level 6, Harpreet’s English is good, her personality vibrant, and her ability to make friends easier than most.

All was well, you would think, especially with her older sister living in London as well.

However, there was a large “but” when she first arrived for her ESL school. It was something you would not have guessed talking to her six weeks after she came to Canada.

Harpreet felt homesick when she first began to study English in Canada

Despite that million-dollar smile, she was no different than any other international student leaving her or his homeland to study English in Canada.

“When I arrived here, for approximately one week, I was just crying,” Harpreet said. “I just wanted to leave Canada and go back to my home country.

“But my sister and brother helped me a lot to be here. I think my sister and brother held me every time, explaining the benefits of being in Canada.”

It was a huge help that her sister Prabhjot Kaur Malhi, 34, is in London and her brother, Jagpreet Singh Sidhu, 30, lives just down the highway in Peterborough, Ont.

Harpreet is now part of the London household.

“I feel very comfortable because my family is here, because my siblings are here. So that is a great moment when I go with them for an outing.

“It is great for me because we get together after a long time of five to six years of being apart. Didn’t spend much time with them. It’s a good time in Canada for me.”

Originally, Harpreet was just coming to Canada for a visit, but her sister was quick to point out the advantages of staying put and working on her education.

“My sister said I could do some study in Canada, then she actually told me about CultureWorks. She organized everything for me because I didn’t know anything about Canada. It’s my first time here.

The other piece of the puzzle that led to solving the homesickness involved the CultureWorks English for academic purposes courses themselves.

One of Harpreet’s CultureWorks teachers, Linda Beckley, says the newcomer from India is an outstanding student, “willing to take risks.”

One of Harpreet’s CultureWorks teachers, Linda Beckley, says the newcomer from India is an outstanding student, “willing to take risks.”

“At the very first time, I just felt very awkward, but when I met with my classmates, and met with my teachers, I felt they were very friendly, because they all respect me and I respect all of them,” she said.

“So I didn’t feel any awkward moments with them. I just felt very comfortable with them in class. It is a good time for me.”

Harpreet wants to follow her older sister’s university path and that involves Brescia University College, where her sister now studies.

Harpreet has many goals for after her English for academic purposes courses

“I want to pursue further study in my field. I just want to get admission in bachelor of food and nutrition program because it is my dream to become a dietician.

“That’s why I am very eager to get into that program and just put all my efforts into becoming a good dietician in Canada.”

She said she would like, however, some help with the weather. The London spring has not been suitable for Canadians, let alone guests from Asia.

“When I arrived here, there was too much cold. That’s rough for me to survive in too much cold because I am not used to this type of weather. But the people are very friendly.”

Harpreet said she will miss India.

“There are lot things we can do with our friends. In India, there is education, there is entertainment, there are religious places, and there are historical places which we can visit.”

She acknowledges there are challenges, however, in every country.

“The environment … obviously in India. Pollution is a big problem and water, air. Mostly air pollution causes many types of problems. Health diseases like bronchitis, asthma.

Harpreet (left front) enjoys a London, Ont., sushi dinner with her parents, her sister and brother, and her sister’s children.
Harpreet (left front) enjoys a London, Ont., sushi dinner with her parents, her sister and brother, and her sister’s children.

“These are the challenges and that’s why we live in Canada.”

And that is where her smile now rests.

Are you looking for a caring and supportive ESL school?

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A story of two Peters and how they are planning their passage to priesthood, minus the pickled peppers.

CultureWorks students Peter Tran, left, and Peter Nguyen, right, are heading down the road to priesthood. Here they accompany CultureWorks graduate and staff member, Peter Choi, at a CW event.
CultureWorks students Peter Tran, left, and Peter Nguyen, right, are heading down the road to priesthood. Here they accompany CultureWorks graduate and staff member, Peter Choi, at a CW event.
CultureWorks students Peter Tran, left, and Peter Nguyen, right, are heading down the road to priesthood. Here they accompany CultureWorks graduate and staff member, Peter Choi, at a CW event.

In this case, a very well known alliteration does not really come into play.

However, it sure is fun when we introduce two charming CultureWorks students.

Neither Peter Tran nor Peter Nguyen, who hail from Vietnam, have ever picked a peck of pickled peppers in their lifetimes.

(And our newest CultureWorks staff addition, Peter Choi, assures us he also has never gone deep for peppers in his home country of China. See photo above)

What the two Peters from Vietnam have in common, in addition to being CultureWorks students, is the lifetime goal to be Catholic priests. And the route they are taking is through St. Peter’s Seminary and King’s University College, next door to each other in London.

Peter Tran talks about coming to Canada to study English and theology

Peter Tran, the older of the two at 27, was recruited from St. Boniface in Winnipeg and he could not be happier. And before King’s, he has to improve his English writing and speaking by taking the ESL program at CultureWorks.

“They told me the (CW) English program in London, Ontario, is better for me, a reason for me to choose study here,” he said. “And another reason is St. Peter’s Seminary is here and the main reason to come here is to study theology.”

While the Canadian weather would never stand in his way, he was somewhat surprised, nevertheless.

“When I came here, I was very shocked about the weather. The weather is so much colder than Vietnam. Now I think Canada is a good temperature. The people are friendly. I think it is good for me to serve here and meet people in Canada,” he said.

Now in Level 7 at our ESL school and most likely graduating at the end of June, he will head to Winnipeg for the summer and return to St. Peter’s and King’s University College in September.

“For me, CultureWorks means a lot of work, but now for me it is a good English program. It makes me do a lot of work … practice, practice every day,” he said.

“Now, I feel CultureWorks is good and I feel comfortable and I enjoy my studying here.”

Peter Nguyen shares what he loves most about the ESL program

Meanwhile, Peter Nguyen, the younger of the two at 20, will be working with the Hamilton, Ont., diocese. He has eight years ahead of him while the older Peter has five years of training.

Peter Nguyen said the program at CultureWorks is difficult, yet fair.

Peter Tran (above) and Peter Nguyen talk about their days at CultureWorks.

“But I think those assignments have helped me to study hard and to gain more knowledge. And it has prepared me for the skills before I go to Western,” he said.

“The teachers in CultureWorks are nice and are fun and they always take care of the students when they have difficult questions. And another thing is Boomalang. That is a good program. After we study in CultureWorks, we can study at home. We can practice our speaking and listening and we can study from the news.”

He, also, has adjusted to the weather.

“I like the environment here, because Vietnam is a little polluted,” he said frankly.

Discussing the bombing in Sri Lanka

Recently, the two young men heading down the road to priesthood, had to face — emotionally at least — the mass bombing in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. More than 250 people died in the explosions at St. Anthony’s Church.

“For me, as a Catholic person, they are like my relatives,” Peter Tran said. “For me, I had a lot of passion for the people in Sri Lanka. They are Catholics, too.”

Peter Nguyen, like his fellow countryman, felt the same.

“The first thing is my emotion,” he said. “I felt so sad for that, but another thing as I am a priest and when I saw a lot of people who died by the terrorism from some crazy people, the first thing I thought is they were not lucky.”

Two fine young men, picking the path to priesthood.

Would you like to study English in Canada?

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THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES

A huge congratulation goes out to our Level 7 class for completing our program. Best wishes as you embark on new challenges and adventures!

 

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES

CultureWorks graduating students say goodbye with Spirit Awards, photos and the all-consuming poster presentations.

BEST WISHES

“Congratulations on your successful completion of the CultureWorks program. You have worked hard to reach this milestone, and we have enjoyed working with you. You should feel confident that you are well-prepared to achieve your future academic and career goals, and we wish you the greatest success. We hope you will always look back fondly on your experience at CultureWorks as a time of transformation and growth.”

Derek Martin,

CultureWorks Principal

Stan Rath

CultureWorks Vice Principal

A huge congratulation goes out to our Level 7 class for completing our program. Best wishes as you embark on new challenges and adventures!
A huge congratulation goes out to our Level 7 class for completing our program. Best wishes as you embark on new challenges and adventures!
Huda- Confident and Capable Award Dingxin- International Affairs Expert Award Defu- International Trade Expert Award Yuqing- The Most Dedicated and Interesting Answers Award Hao- The Student with a Great Sense of Humour Award Hai - The Happy to Be Here Award (not pictured)
Huda- Confident and Capable Award
Dingxin- International Affairs Expert Award
Defu- International Trade Expert Award
Yuqing- The Most Dedicated and Interesting Answers Award
Hao- The Student with a Great Sense of Humour Award
Hai – The Happy to Be Here Award (not pictured)
Poster presentations are the final major part of work for the Level 6 and Level 7 students each term. The effort teams put forward results in brilliant work each and every time.
Poster presentations are the final major part of work for the Level 6 and Level 7 students each term. The effort teams put forward results in brilliant work each and every time.

ESL program

 

CultureWorks students are now eligible for conditional admission to Algoma University

 

We are happy to share the news that CultureWorks students are now eligible for conditional admission to Algoma University. This new pathway will provide additional options for students studying with CultureWorks in China or in Canada.

Founder Tina Bax says “Our mission is to provide students with access to education. Algoma offers an experience that many other Canadian universities do not, due to its location and program offerings. We look forward to sharing the Algoma story with our students and their parents”.

The tale of how the ‘newspaper guy’ becomes the Daily Boomalang moderator.

The ‘newspaper guy’ heads up the Sun Media team at the 2012 London Olympics. Here they gather at St. Pancras International Station on the final day.
The ‘newspaper guy’ heads up the Sun Media team at the 2012 London Olympics. Here they gather at St. Pancras International Station on the final day.

The year was 2014 when the career of the lifetime “newspaper guy” ended.

But, as it turned out, not his employment dealing with the news of the day.

His one-year stint with the Metro daily paper had come to a stop when the London, Ont., version closed.

That was after 16 ½ years at Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail. And two stints at the London Free Press (one stint in which he overlaps with Sun Media) adding up to 24 years.

Ok, yes he’s old, but doesn’t act that way. Sometimes, you wish he would.

Newspaper mail boy and copy boy, sports writer, sports desk editor, photo editor times two, sports editor times two and finally back to sports writer.

The end was not what he wanted, despite the long haul. Where would he go?

Joining the team at our ESL school

Maybe head back to the golf club where he worked in the pro shop as a teenager. Or back to where he started, delivering The Globe as a 10-year-old in Owen Sound, Ont., or the London Free Press in St. Thomas, Ont., as a 12-year-old.

He was too young to retire, too poor to run away to Jamaica, too energetic to not be dealing with people on a daily basis.

Within days, CultureWorks Founder and President Tina Bax invited the “newspaper guy” for lunch. She had an idea how to keep him employed.

And if you know Tina, ideas are not something she has in short supply.

Within minutes, she explained how her “vision” was going to work. At this point, there was no staff for the project, no name attached. But it did sound much like a newspaper position.

A few months later, it became a reality.

An English as a second language class about news and current events

This new online course would allow students to practice their listening and speaking skills anywhere there is internet access. Carried out in real time, this is focused on daily current events, guided by a course moderator. Topics include a mix of international, national and local news.

Students completing their intensive English training have the opportunity to critically reflect upon the news, share opinions and discuss a variety of topics within an intimate class format. The size of the online class – no more than 8-10 students – allows regular conversation in English, helping students build up the confidence needed to reach their goals. And the online forum is always encouraging and never intimidating!

In the fall of 2014, the vision came into play. Plenty of discussion on how exactly the class discussions would be shared with the moderator, ultimately the newspaper guy’s role in this online class.

A name had to be attached and a group of downtown London staffers sat down and worked on the ultimate name game.

By the end of the day, the official name was sent to us from a New York taxi where several members of CultureWorks administration were on their way to the airport and home.

Feelings were not hurt. The suggested name from the taxi was perfect – the Daily Boomalang. Sounded much like a newspaper name, was a takeoff on the boomerang and perhaps had something to do with the newspaper’s guy last name.

The Daily Boomalang started out as a separate project with London, Oshawa and Ottawa students included. Then it became an elective and finally a weekly class for all London-based CultureWorks students.

Three nights, 50-minute classes, several different news stories, too much Donald Trump, too little baseball, too many plane crashes, too little on global warming.

Mornings are spent selecting the news stories for the evening classes. Newspaper guy loves it. Essentially a split shift, allowing him to go for a run in between.

And allows the newspaper guy to step aside for one absolutely necessary Daily Boomalang component.

That would be IT expert Peter Choi who puts together the photos and videos and makes certain all students are connected in each class from their home-stays or whatever site they may have chosen to be seated.

The Masters graduate in computer engineering is required to “baby sit” the newspaper guy, also known as the guy with a Blackberry.

And we also needed the keen students from China, Vietnam, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etc.

At this point, the newspaper guy becomes the moderator when the students hit the online classroom. The students have had a chance to review the news stories, links posted earlier in the day. He leads the discussions.

‘Newspaper guy’ on duty for the online classes in London, Ont.
‘Newspaper guy’ on duty for the online classes in London, Ont.

Soon after, the newspaper guy turns into something different as he works his way through the daily online English as a second language classes.

He becomes a fan.

He smiles a lot. He becomes a cheerleader. He watches and listens. He wants the students to do well. He wants to join them in their CultureWorks outings. He wants all of them to not miss a class.

He also combines with Peter to capture the students on video clips, talking about the news stories of the day, the week, the year. He spends time learning how to pronounce Jingxuan’s name.

And now five years later, he wants to meet the alumni and hear about their successes.

The newspaper guy clearly enjoys being part of the CultureWorks family.

Would you like to join the CultureWorks family?

Learn more about enrolling in our ESL school in Canada!

CultureWorks student from Jordan keeps his life simple: ‘Help all people, and all people will help you.’

 

Mohamad, a Level 6 student at CultureWorks, shares his opinion on reactions to the New Zealand massacre.

Mohamad Abed Alfattah is 19 and has been a student in the CultureWorks ESL program for five months. He is in Level 6 and is slated to graduate in June.

His home is Jordan and his family lives in the country’s capital, Amman. He is the fifth child in a family of eight.

As personable a student as you will find, it had been less than a week after the horrific massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand.

“I am a Muslim person and I am proud of this religion because it is a piece of my identity and personality,” Mohamad said in the CultureWorks office. “What happened in New Zealand is really a sad thing in that country, that great country.”

Mohamad was talking about this news because it was the story of the day, the week, the year. Like the world over, he was shocked.

He made his usual Friday trek to his mosque in London, Ontario, the day of the shooting. Obviously, it was different than the usual Fridays.

“In the Friday prayer, they were talking about this,” Mohamad said. “Actually, it was a lot of people came to the mosque and security people as well. It was really sad; it was a very bad thing. We can see there was no connection here between terrorism and Islam.”

Horrific news from far, far away can be difficult to handle for international students. For Mohamad, the mosque and CultureWorks are always available for his own personal peacekeeping.

Mohamad talks about his experiences in Canada and with CultureWorks

Mohamad said he is cognizant of the fact CultureWorks teachers and staff are close by when any problem – small or large — arises for students.

Mohamad’s father and three of his sisters from Amman, Jordan.
Mohamad’s father and three of his sisters from Amman, Jordan.

“The teachers are helpful. When I ask someone in CultureWorks they will help me; they will answer me; they help solve the problems. And they have time to listen to me and they respect me.

“If I want something personal, I can go to Liz (Macedo), so I can ask her about something, she will help me.”

CultureWorks Founder and President Tina Bax said she is thrilled to hear that.

“That makes me feel good. That means we are doing something right, and hopefully a lot of things doing right so that they feel tied to us and we can see that when they come back for alumni events,” Tina said.

Tina said it is important to have experienced staff available.

“When I go abroad and have frustrating experiences … I want someone to not necessarily parent me because then I really don’t learn how to deal with the next time and it will happen. I am looking for somebody to teach me ‘here is how you can overcome this problem’.”

Meanwhile, Mohamad is more than happy he chose our ESL school and Canada to be his new home.

Mohamad and Moe, his friend of 15 years, out for lunch in London, Ont.
Mohamad and Moe, his friend of 15 years, out for lunch in London, Ont.

“First of all, I decided after my high school to come here because I actually want to build my future by myself. I don’t want my father just to help me and give me money and go ahead in a new country,” Mohamad said.

“My father asked me if I wanted to go to U.S.A. or Canada or Germany. I chose Canada and I talked with my teacher. He is my friend and still is my friend. He told me to go to Canada. ‘That’s what would be good for you. It’s a great country’.”

Staying in Canada after completing ESL school

Mohamad finds London a “beautiful city,” albeit a small city. He doesn’t plan to leave.

“It is really beautiful to see all these cultures (in London) together, helping each other, and living in peace,” he said. “They respect each other. That’s what I want, to respect other people and other people respect you. That’s really a nice thing.”

Tina understands Mohamad’s decision to make London his final home.

Mohamad with his homestay Marilyn Light and her friend Albert.
Mohamad with his homestay Marilyn Light and her friend Albert.

“I think when you go abroad and have an experience when you are living abroad — especially when it’s your first time abroad or when you going abroad for the first time to learn a language, put down roots, being away from your family — you really end up being tied to the first school that you land on whether it be a university or a high school or in this case, a language school, because we are the stepping stone to that education that they eventually want to have at college or university.

Meanwhile, Mohamad confirms that one major decision.

“I don’t think about (leaving). I am staying here,” he said, quite clearly.
“I am not just talking about university; I am not just thinking about studying … I am talking about an opportunity, my future, about people who can respect you, people who can help you.”

Or as he sums up his way of living …

“Help all people, and all people will help you. If you do best for me, I will do the best for you.”

Do you want to learn English as a second language in a supportive environment?

Discover the caring teachers, staff, and students at CultureWorks.

How ESL school can help you tackle the most common English pronunciation mistakes

English as a second language program

Correct pronunciation in English can be tricky. Sometimes, two words that are spelled completely differently are pronounced exactly the same way (such as “write” and “right”). Then there are words that are spelled the same way, but are pronounced differently (such as the verb “read,” which can be pronounced “reed” or “red” depending on whether it’s used in the present or past tense).

These rules can definitely feel confusing. But the good news is that English pronunciation isn’t as challenging as it may appear. Attending an ESL school in Canada is an especially effective way of overcoming the most common pronunciation mistakes. Here’s how.

ESL school can help you spot letters that have more than one pronunciation

The English alphabet has 26 letters, but there are actually 40 different sounds (called phonemes) in the English language. This means that some letters have more than one sound. The letter “c,” for example, can have a hard sound that’s similar to a “k,” such as in the word “cat.” At the same time, it can also have a softer sound that’s close to an “s,” such as in the word “ceiling.” These different sounds for just one letter can be easy to miss if you’re learning English at home out of a book. However, if you’re studying in a classroom with a native English teacher, they’ll be able to spot when you’re pronouncing certain words incorrectly.

English has many letters with more than one sound
English has many letters with more than one sound

Studying in Canada can help you get used to English’s more unusual sounds

Some sounds in English are unusual and don’t appear in many other languages. One of the most difficult of these is the “th” sound. While challenging for many, this is a very common sound in English. It shows up in important words such as “the,” “this,” “that,” and “thing.” Mastering the “th” sound is definitely a challenge, so don’t get frustrated if you have trouble with it. Even young children who are native English speakers often have difficulty with it.

While most people will still be able to understand you if you have trouble with the “th” sound, you should try to master it as best you can. This is usually easier to do if you live in an English-speaking country. Unlike in your home country, where the “th” sound may be unusual, when you study English in Canada, you’ll be hearing and speaking English every day. As a result, you can get used to hearing the “th” and other unique English sounds, which will help you get used to using them yourself.

ESL school will help you feel comfortable making pronunciation mistakes

The best way to learn how to speak English is to actually speak it. That can be intimidating since English isn’t your mother tongue. However, by being in an ESL school where everybody else is a language learner, you’ll feel much more comfortable practising your English pronunciation. In fact, at CultureWorks you can even take elective courses such as Pronunciation & Conversation, where you can focus on improving your English abilities. In these courses, you don’t have to worry about making mistakes. By making mistakes and learning from them, your pronunciation will get better!

ESL school allows you to practise your pronunciation in a comfortable setting
ESL school allows you to practise your pronunciation in a comfortable setting

Do you want to learn English in Canada?

Contact CultureWorks to learn about our English as a second language program.

Teaguen gives us a lesson ‘Onn’ the independent study program at our ESL school

CultureWork students, teachers and staff mingle through the independent study poster presentations in the Andy@Helen Spriet Learning Commons at The Darryl J. King Student Life Centre on the King’s University College campus. Photos courtesy of Peter Choi.
CultureWork students, teachers and staff mingle through the independent study poster presentations in the Andy@Helen Spriet Learning Commons at The Darryl J. King Student Life Centre on the King’s University College campus. Photos courtesy of Peter Choi.

Teaguen Onn is a teacher, a good one as a matter of fact. That does not make him one of a kind at CultureWorks. It’s a talented group from top to bottom.

If some of his teaching philosophies may be unique, however, they may have started with his two favourite studies in school, history … and philosophy.

Degrees in education and English literature at Western and Waterloo, respectively, and international teaching time in South Korea helped to round out his background. And being a CW teacher since 2011 doesn’t hurt either.

Teaguen Onn has been a teacher at CultureWorks since 2011.
Teaguen Onn has been a teacher at CultureWorks since 2011.

Teaguen sat down recently to talk about the independent study course outline, a path he has guided students along many, many times since joining CultureWorks. It is something he enjoys doing and where the teaching uniqueness comes into play.

What students can expect from the independent study course at our ESL school

In short, here is what we are talking about, using the course description as a guide.

Students work in pairs to propose, research, conduct, and report on a project of their choosing. This project will take the entire eight weeks of the term. Throughout the term, students will be responsible for meeting project milestones. They will be required to reflect on the project weekly and to produce a final learner portfolio explaining their contributions to the project and reflecting on their own learning throughout the process.

At the end of the term, they have created a show-and-tell poster presentation that they share with the teachers and fellow students.

“The main focus would be in using all the skills learned from all the other core subjects that we teach at CultureWorks,” Teaguen said in outlining the ESL program.

“So we are looking at listening and speaking, the reading, and then the writing as well. And I am also doing research. All of this is kind of rolled into one package… and it gives them more freedom to express these different skills, outside the parameters that we would normally assign to them with those specific classes.”

The poster presentations and the road to get there begin with their first days at our ESL school, Teaguen said.

“This is their chance to show kind of a final product, I guess, from what they have learned throughout their time. And I don’t even think this is necessarily cumulative just from a Level 7 or Level 6, but really from whenever they started in the CultureWorks program.

“To show ‘I’ve come this far and this is my end product. This is my big finale’.”

CultureWorks independent study teachers Paul Findlay (left, Level 6) and Teaguen Onn (right, Level 7) assess student poster presentations.
CultureWorks independent study teachers Paul Findlay (left, Level 6) and Teaguen Onn (right, Level 7) assess student poster presentations.

Allowing students to learn English as a second language in a more authentic way

Level 6 and Level 7 students take this eight-week program, with the expectations higher for the final-term students. Teaguen has the Level 7 group this term; fellow CW teacher Paul Findlay has the Level 6 group.

“With the Level 6, it is more of a rigid structure. With the Level 7, it’s more of about what can you do outside of the structure and how can you get people interested and engaged in your topic. That is the goal.”

The students’ subject choices cover a wide range and environmental subjects seem to top the list. But you may also find the proper way to operate a hot-pot restaurant in London, Ontario!

“The reason we introduced this program initially was we were trying to look for some more authentic ways for people to express the skills and the things that they have learned throughout the time of the program,” Teaguen said.

“They are supposed to be feasible and realistic solutions to these problems. So in that sense, it is an authentic assessment of what would you do in a real world like this.”

The benefits of completing the independent study course

Teaguen said the full-term project helps the students in many ways.

“It gives them a sense of working on something throughout a term. That’s important because when they do get into university, there will be some assignments that require bigger presentations, bigger reports, bigger essays. They will need sustained focus and concentration in order to be successful.”

Now back to Teaguen’s teaching philosophies. Some involve the ongoing teacher-student relationship in the independent study program.

“I would say it is a different relationship, because it allows me to not be the — for the lack of a better term — the all-knowing teacher preaching from the front of the room, telling people what is right and what is wrong.

“It’s me facilitating; it’s me closer to a peer — obviously not a peer — but closer to a peer and being able to communicate with them on a different level.

“It’s me working with them, discussing with them about the problem. It’s just a different scenario where I actually feel more comfortable doing that because I actually think it’s more helpful to talk people through things and feel that they can learn a lot more. It’s actually a different way in giving them feedback.”

Brian and Ruby, two current CultureWorks students, share some thoughts on the independent study program

At the end of the day comes satisfaction. Not always, however.

“With that sense of satisfaction can come with some dissatisfaction, depending on the experience. I am not going to lie. But the opportunity for the ultimate award is there.”

More often than not.

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3 tips for overcoming homesickness during your intensive English program

English as a second language school

Studying English in Canada is an amazing opportunity. You’ll get to explore a foreign country, meet interesting people, and learn a new language all at the same time. However, while studying abroad is an exciting experience, it is quite common to miss your home, family, and friends while you are away. Missing your home while you’re away even has its own word in English: homesickness.

If you’re feeling homesick, it is important to know that you are not alone. Missing your home life and culture is common, especially after the initial excitement of arriving in a new country fades. Luckily, most students learn to overcome homesickness so that they can continue enjoying their time abroad.

Here are 3 ways you can overcome homesickness:

1. Meet friends through social activities in your intensive English program

Having a circle of friends will help you feel less isolated while you study English abroad. However, making friends in a new country may feel difficult at first, especially when you don’t know many people. Fortunately, studying English makes meeting people much easier. Ask your classmates if they would like to form a study group or suggest and plan a visit to a local attraction. If reaching out to new people feels intimidating, take part in the social activities that your English as a second language school offers. For example, your school may offer social activities, such as field trips or board games nights. Attending these events can be a great way to meet new people.

Making friends with your classmates is a great way to overcome homesickness
Making friends with your classmates is a great way to overcome homesickness

2. Maintain connections with your home, but don’t dwell on social media

Another way to overcome homesickness is to maintain some connections to your home country. For example, you should call or chat online with friends and family back home regularly. It’s also a good idea to find a grocery store that sells imported food from your home country. This way, you can still enjoy some of the foods you love while you are away, and perhaps even share them with the new friends you make!

However, don’t dwell too much on what you are missing back home. While staying in touch with your friends is definitely a good idea, spending hours on social media looking at what they are doing is not. Try to limit your social media use to a few hours per week. Too much social media can make you feel lonelier, since you will feel as though you are missing out on events back home. Instead, focus on the friends you are making while you study English. Those friends may even be able to share tips about how they have overcome their own feelings of homesickness.

3. Stay open to exploring your new home when you study English abroad

The first week of arriving to a new country is usually the most exciting. Everything will seem new and fascinating. However, once this initial excitement wears off, it can be easy to take things for granted and to start to miss home. To combat this, seek out new experiences even after that first wave of excitement fades. Whether you study English in Ottawa or in London, Ontario, there are many incredible things to see and do after the first week.

For example, Ottawa has a lot of world-class cultural and historic attractions, such as the Rideau Canal—which you can skate on during the winter. London, meanwhile, is home to great festivals, including Sunfest, which is the second-largest world music festival in Canada. These are great attractions to explore on your own or with your classmates. Remaining open to exploring your surroundings and seeking new experiences will help you appreciate what an amazing opportunity studying abroad is.

Remember to keep exploring what makes your new home unique, like the Rideau Canal in Ottawa
Remember to keep exploring what makes your new home unique, like the Rideau Canal in Ottawa

Do you want to study English abroad?

Contact CultureWorks to learn more about our intensive English program!