4 Things That Really Define Canadians

Study English in Canada

When people consider the nation of Canada, a lot of symbols come to mind: the maple leaf, winter sports, the Rocky Mountains, frosty temperatures – even a couple of famous names like Celine Dion, Sidney Crosby or Mike Meyers. But what actually define us as people? How has living in this nation formed who we are?

If you’re considering traveling to Canada to study English and attend college, chances are you’ll be with us for at least a few years. And you might find yourself pondering exactly what it is that makes Canadians so Canadian. Let’s take a look at a few things we’re known for around the world.

We are Diverse

In 1971, Canada was the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as an official policy. In doing so, Canada affirmed the value and dignity of all Canadian citizens regardless of their racial or ethnic origins, their language, or their religious affiliation. Multiculturalism defines us as a people in every way imaginable.

Students enrolled in ESL programs in Canada know that our country has two official languages – English and French. However, many may not be aware that our inherent diversity has led to a veritable explosion of languages across the country. It was recently reported that there are over 200 languages spoken in Canada in the home or as a mother tongue. Our streets are rich with restaurants featuring foods from every corner of the globe, our schools are filled with children from all cultures, and in most cities it’s easy to find a place of prayer regardless of your religious affiliation.

We’re Friendly and Peace Loving

In a nation that embraces so much diversity, it’s no wonder that we get along so well! Canada consistently ranks among the top 10 most peaceful countries in the world, with low levels of violent crime, enduring political stability, and a high level of UN peacekeeping involvement.

Students who travel from abroad to study English in Canada soon discover that Canadians are also world renowned for our friendly attitude. We’re sometimes poked-fun at in the media for being overly nice and polite, but what’s so bad about that? The truth is, as travelers we are welcomed with open arms all over the world, and are valued as partners in global business and trade.

We’re Highly Educated

In Canada, education is seen as the most desirable route to career success, personal growth and happiness. With affordable tuition rates and a wide variety of high quality universities to choose from, it’s no surprise that Canada is ranked the number one most educated country in the world! We are considered a world leader in language training and boast an unmatched literacy rate of 99 per cent.

We Love Sports

As a nation, we’ve not only hosted the Olympics three times, but have produced some of the world’s finest athletes. We have leagues in nearly every sport imaginable from youth leagues all the way up to professional leagues. And ok, we do have a special place in our hearts for hockey – it’s true.

If hockey’s not necessarily your preference, we’ve also got prominent sports figures in the UFC and the NBA.

Whether you’re taking part in athletic training or watching a game from the comfort of your own home, a love for sports is something we proudly share as Canadians.

What comes to mind when YOU think of Canada?

Stan Rath ~ The Best of Both Worlds


Today we’re joined by the one and only, Mr. Stan Rath.  Stan is one of CultureWorks’ powerhouses.  He is a teacher, a curriculum developer, and a mentor to both teachers and students.  If you want to learn something, I suggest you hang around Stan. I recently asked him some questions so you can get to know him a little better.

Q. Stan, who is your favourite Canadian musician?

A. Oscar Peterson is a world class jazz pianist. I listen to his music every day.


Q. What idiomatic expression best describes you and why?

A. I think “the best of both worlds” describes me well. I love to travel and meet people from different cultures, but I also love to stay close to home.

At CultureWorks, I experience the best of both worlds because I have many interesting students from a variety of cultures in the classroom, and I get to live in my hometown of London, Ontario.



Q. When you’re not teaching, what are you doing? Do you have any hobbies, and why do you like doing them?

A. When I’m not teaching, I am usually hiking or planning my next vacation. One of the best feelings for me is being close to nature, and my favourite way to do this is hiking in Algonquin Park here in Ontario.

Stan Students Niagara

I find traveling, seeing new places, meeting new people, and experiencing different cultures very interesting. Two of my favourite countries that I have visited so far are India and Italy.

Q. You studied Biology before becoming a teacher. Do you think language is like science in any way? Do you draw from your scientific background in your approach to teaching?

A. I definitely think that language has scientific structure and rules, and I have found a scientific approach to teaching grammar and writing to be very effective. Many of my students have indicated that they benefit from using a formulaic approach when they practice using their vocabulary to build grammatically correct sentences.


Q. Lastly, for fun, if you could create a new word for the English language, what would it be and what would it mean?

A. gramtastic (adjective) definition: relating to the joy people feel when grammar unlocks doors to language learning

Gramtastic!  I love it!  Thanks so much for stopping by the Hotspot, I’ve really enjoyed learning more about you, and I know our CultureWorks students are lucky to have you as their teacher!

Stan Class Photo 2

Study in Canada

CultureWorks students, I applaud you! Again you find yourselves at the end of another successful term, glowing from your efforts studying English.  And again, we need to reflect upon why you are able to realize your academic dreams.  Of course, hard work and determination are the key components ~ you should be very proud of yourselves!  But the other component is quite clear too, although maybe too obvious to realize sometimes:  you chose to study in Canada!

I stumbled upon this amazing article today and had to share it with you.  If you need a reminder why you chose Canada, or you know someone who wants to come here to study, read and share this article. It is amazing.


Canada is built to help people succeed.  Our educational policies set out by the government are designed to help students build their future.  Whether you are studying in London, Oshawa, or Ottawa, you have experienced the amazing support our country brings to facilitate your learning.  Furthermore, Canada is proud to have international learners come to our great shores!

Have a spectacular term break!  Enjoy our mighty country and come back to the classroom with stories to tell!



“Down to Earth” ~ An Interview with Meredith McGregor @ CultureWorks London!

meredethmcgregor_hrPlease welcome Meredith McGregor to the Hotspot! After reading her interview, you’ll learn she is a thoughtful and sincere person.  You might even say she’s “Down to Earth”.  I’d love to have her as a teacher!

How long have you been working at CultureWorks?  What is it about teaching English that you like the most?

I started as a substitute teacher at CultureWorks in the Fall of 2010 and then began full-time in January of 2011. The staff and students are the best part about teaching at CultureWorks. What I like best about teaching English for CW is the academic nature of the program.

What are your hobbies?  Which of them do you recommend new students to Canada try, and why?

I teach dance aerobics part-time for a gym. This is something I really enjoy doing in my spare time. I also like cooking and reading.


 There are a lot of students from a wide variety of cultures at our school, and each culture is rich in music, food, film, art, history, and stories.  Which of these cultural features would you be most interested in learning about?  Why?

Since working for CultureWorks, I have become really interested in visiting China one day.  I think it would be nice to have a better sense of where our Chinese students come from, and be able to relate to them better. Also, it just sounds like a really diverse and interesting country with a rich culture and history.


 What is your role at CultureWorks? Which courses do you specialize in?  How do you feel these skills will aid our students in university or college?  Do you have any advice you’d like to give students in these areas?

I mostly teach Level C/D Writing and Grammar. Being able to write well is an important skill not only for post-secondary studies, but for employment as well. My advice is to develop your vocabulary so that you are able to express yourself clearly and directly. Having strong diction is an asset that influences all aspects of communication.


 Lastly, for fun, if you could visit any Canadian province, where would you go? Why?

I would love to see more of Canada because I feel like I have traveled more outside of my own country than domestically. I have never been to Nova Scotia, so maybe I would choose to go there, especially during the summer.



Thanks a million! An Interview w/ Jenny Blake @ CultureWorks London

This week I am joined on the Hotspot with the lovely Jenny Blake.  Jenny’s the kind of person who smiles when she speaks.  Her warm, personal character leaves everyone saying ‘Thanks a million’ for her help!


1. How long have you been working at CultureWorks?  What is it about teaching English that you like the most?
I have been working at CultureWorks for 5 years.  Believe it or not, I love grammar and collocation!  Of course, I also like having interesting and amazing students, and that’s exactly what we have at CultureWorks.


2. What are your hobbies?  Which of them do you recommend new students to Canada try, and why?
My hobbies are deep conversation over good coffee, reading about World War II, dance, and martial arts.  Joining a class or a gym is a great way for students to make new friends and immerse themselves into the culture.


3. There are a lot of students from a wide variety of cultures at our school, and each culture is rich in music, food, film, art, history, and stories.  Which of these cultural features would you be most interested in learning about?  Why?

All of them!  I love learning anything and everything about new cultures.  If I had to pick, I suppose I would choose history as I like to see “the big picture.”

Tarracotta Warriors in China

4.  What is your role at CultureWorks?  Which courses do you specialize?  How do you feel these skills will aid our students in university or college?  Do you have any advice you’d like to give students in these areas?
I have two roles at CultureWorks.  I am a Level D instructor of Academic Reading and IELTS, and I am a Student Success Coordinator.  In my Student Success role, I help students transition from CultureWorks to university.  I know from personal experience of going to university in Scotland, that university in Canada is quite different.  It’s important to learn what these differences are in order to be prepared for university and be successful.  My best advice?  Ask a million questions!

jenny think

5. Lastly, for fun, if you could visit any Canadian province, where would you go? Why?

I would go to Prince Edward Island to visit Green Gables.  Anne of Green Gables is one of my favourite books, and I would love to walk through the countryside like Anne did!



CultureWorks teachers are a little weird.  They’re real people.


I mean, they stand at the front of the classroom like ‘regular’ teachers.  They give professional lectures and facilitate dynamic group exercises.  What makes them weird is that CULTUREWORKS TEACHERS WANT TO GET TO KNOW YOU.  Like, as a person. They’re weird because they don’t ONLY stand in front of the classroom, they also walk around the room and talk with you one on one.  They go on weekly trips with you and scroll through your Facebook photo albums.  Heck, I’ve even seen CultureWorks teachers exchange recipes, play squash, and sing with their students. Super weird, and like, totally human, right?

So the question is, what are you doing to connect with your teachers?  Your time in Canada is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so don’t be shy! Here’s a couple of ideas to get you started:


Easier said than done, right?  Well, believe me, CultureWorks teachers like when you ask questions!  The only way you’ll feel less shy around your teacher is by asking questions, simple stuff, like “How was your weekend?”  “Have you seen (movie)?” “Is there a restaurant you recommend in the area?”  Of course your teachers are there to teach you, and how better to do that if you are comfortable with them?


Canadians all have a unique heritage.  Just by asking your teacher’s family history, you’re learning valuable Canadian history and getting a better understanding of them at the same time.  Take me, for example.  My mother is German, and my father has Welsh heritage.  Now you know why I like to tell people what to do while eating lots of bread.  (I’m joking.) (Not really.)


Hiding behind your laptop or texting under the desk at the back of the class will never connect you to your teacher.  By sitting at the front, or near the front of the class, you will engage more with your teacher’s lessons and show them that you care, and are there to learn.


You work hard, and so do your teachers.  Taking the time to write a thoughtful thank you note for all the effort they put into your lessons will really mean a lot to them.  I know this may sound strange depending on your academic customs, but in Canada, teachers respond kindly when they know their work is appreciated.  This won’t guarantee you a higher grade, but it will give you a shared experience that goes beyond marks and tests.


Last week some students threw a surprise party for teachers at our Oshawa/UOIT campus, which was AWESOME!  Food, music, and loads of memorable photographs definitely showed the teachers that their students cared about them.  Cool, eh?  It goes to show that anytime is a good time for party time!

Reach out to your teachers.  You’ll learn far more than a language! 🙂

Oshawa Teacher Party
Oshawa Teacher Party


Tips on Study Tips


I remember preparing for my third year Anthropology class presentation, writing a 25 page term paper for my Classics course, and studying for three other courses, and all were all taking place in the same week. Ugh! They say university and college is great for teaching us time management, but I’d like to add that it is also great for teaching us how to stress out and throw dishes against the wall.

In researching this week’s blog post on study tips, I kept coming across the same advice.  Study with a friend.  Don’t procrastinate.  Use a highlighter.  Keep a log of difficult words and ideas.  Quiz yourself.  Divide your material into smaller, manageable chunks.  These suggestions are very good.  You’ve heard our teachers at CultureWorks give you the same advice a million times, so I don’t want to bore you with repetition.  Luckily, I came across two videos that offer some different ideas about preparing for tests.

This video has a lot of strange ideas that are just weird enough to work.  I definitely agree with listening to instrumental music while you study – music with lyrics are much too distracting.

[wpvideo xnQyUrVP]

This video offers excellent advice on setting a time limit when you are really concentrating.  In our age of iPhones and universal internet access, this is a great skill to practice.

[wpvideo NM4E1QUr]

These tips will especially help you with advancing your reading, listening, writing, and grammar skills.  Not only that, they’ll make your brain HUGE! Big brains are attractive, right?

Student Appreciation Week!

1,955,340 — That’s the approximate total number of students enrolled in Canadian universities and colleges in 2013.  Do you have any idea how many late night pizzas that is?  Yikes!

Seeing as it’s Student Appreciation Week, I’m going to dedicate this week’s blog to you, students.  Consider it a big digital hug.

Thanks for maintaining Canada’s high level of academic standards on the global scale.

Thanks for striving for excellence and furthering yourself.

Thanks for contributing to Canadian society in a constructive, intelligent, and progressive way.

And if you are an international student in Canada, thank you for diversifying our campuses, and enriching our worldview.

Check out the two awesome videos of these two CultureWorks  students, Amanda Dantas Oliveira De Medeiros, and Meshel Albaqmi.  They are being interviewed about their experiences at CultureWorks.  Excellent work you guys!  You both have excellent English speaking skills, and your positive attitude toward learning is inspiring!  Happy Student Appreciation Week to you both, and to the other 1,955,338, too!

[wpvideo 7tqnpHuj]

[wpvideo iOLKIjrq]

At the Drop of a Dime ~ Interview with Matt Devlin, Vice Principal @ CultureWorks Oshawa

Matthew Devlin, Vice Principal, Oshawa CultureWorks
Matthew Devlin, Vice Principal, Oshawa CultureWorks

Name: Matt Devlin

Title: Vice Principal of Oshawa Campus, CultureWorks

Best Canadian Film:  My favourite film set in Canada is Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World. It’s such an inventive, unique film, and the city of Toronto plays a major role.

Q. Matt, you’re someone who seems to be able to do anything at ‘the drop of a dime’.  That idiom perfectly describes how you get a job done without hesitation. Outside of your regular duties as Vice Principal, there must be many different, more surprising ways you help students that come up unexpectedly.  What are they?  dime

A. I love a challenge. When a student comes to me with a question or a problem it’s important that I can help them as best as I can, and as fast as I can. I love using technology to help students.  For example, communicating with students through email or instant messaging means students have faster, easier access to me.  It’s great.

Q. Your love of technology seems a perfect fit for UOIT and Durham College.  What apps are you using most often these days?  Is there an app you’d like to develop for our students?

A. There is an app for everything these days and that pretty much describes my app usage. People say we live in the age of technology, which is certainly true, but it is really the age of access. Technology, like smart phone apps, gives us instant access to people, ideas, thoughts and knowledge. If I had to develop an app for our students, it would be one that incorporates these things. It would give students immediate access to teachers, textbooks and other educational tools. Either that, or I’d design an app would give students an electric shock if they are late for class…just kidding.

Courtesy of digital3000net.blogspot.com
Courtesy of digital3000net.blogspot.com

Q. Why do students succeed at CultureWorks?  In your opinion, what are a few basic Dos and Don’ts when studying English for Academic Purposes?

A. Someone once reminded me that a successful school really needs three things: a good teacher, an eager student, and a log to sit on…and the log is optional. Our students are hardworking and dedicated to their studies.  Technology is a great tool for students, but it really comes down to a solid student-teacher relationship. At CultureWorks we have a teaching team that is well educated, passionate and empathetic to our students’ needs. Our success comes from there. Basic dos and don’ts? Do: Work hard. Don’t: Make excuses.  Durham Fast Track Program

Q. Lastly, for fun, if you had to eat only one kind of Canadian food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A. That’s a difficult question! I love grilled or smoked salmon from British Columbia. Montreal-style smoked meat is delicious. Of course, this time of year I’m all about Quebec maple syrup. Do I have to pick just one?

Courtesy of www.healthy-delicious.com
Courtesy of www.healthy-delicious.com

Thanks for your time Matt, we hope to have you back on the Hotspot soon! 

Courtesy of www.about.montreal.com
Courtesy of www.about.montreal.com
Courtesy of www.941thefox.com
Courtesy of www.941thefox.com

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As Cool As a Cucumber ~ An Interview with CultureWorks London Principal, Derek Martin

Derek Martin, Principal, London CampusName: Derek Martin

Title: Principal of London Campus, CultureWorks

Best Canadian TV show: The Red Green Show (http://www.redgreen.com/)  or Rick Mercer Report (http://www.rickmercer.com/)

Q. The idiom ‘as cool as a cucumber’ is an appropriate one for you, Derek.  You always look calm and collected, ready for your many responsibilities as Principal.  Could you describe a few ways that you help students along their academic path? 

A. A significant number of the students I see in my office come because of issues with their studies and their cultural experiences in Canada. My number one message to students is to stay focused on their purpose for studying at CultureWorks. At 19 or 20 years old, students are really in transition. They are learning about taking responsibility for their actions, accepting the consequences of those actions, and learning to reach out to resources on campus and in the community for other extra needs they may have. I reinforce our teacher’s work inside the classroom, and remind students to take charge of their life, inside and outside school.  So I guess I am a little like their ‘Canadian parent’ to these students when they come to my office.

Q. You have a degree in Anthropology.  What attracted you to this field?  Are there aspects of our students’ cultures you would like Canada to adopt?  Why?

A. I specialized in Social-Cultural Anthropology, which is the study of human culture – its development, its diversity, etc. I did not grow up in mainstream Canadian culture, so I was conscious of the influence of culture from an early age. When I studied Anthropology in first year university, I loved it, so I decided to major in it. My studies helped me a lot after university when I lived in Japan, and in my work at CultureWorks.

I think Canadians can learn from the cultures of our students, which often place more emphasis on the interests of the group.  One thing that I’ve noticed among our students is that family is very important to them. They tend to be good at cooperating with one another.  Family is also important to many Canadians too, but I think we may place too much emphasis on the individual.

Courtesy of http://www.cbc.ca
Courtesy of http://www.cbc.ca

Q. What is culture shock? Have you ever experienced it?  Imagine a student is struggling with culture shock, what advice would you give him or her?

Courtesy of http://www.studyabroad.universiablogs.net
Courtesy of http://www.studyabroad.universiablogs.net

A. Culture shock is the discomfort, stress, or anxiety that results from living in a different culture.  I definitely experienced it several times in Japan. I also experienced it when I first moved from my hometown to Toronto after high school. To deal with culture shock, it is important to deal with the stress. Do something that you enjoy. For me, it means playing music, going outside, exercising, or reading. It is also important to stay connected with people from your home culture. At the same time, it is important to reach out and try to learn about the new culture and make friends from that culture. These people will help you to understand the new culture. The key here is “learn”. This means you need to have an attitude of curiosity about the culture.

Q. Lastly, for fun, if you could have any Canadian celebrity over for dinner, who would you be?  Why?

A. Bruce Cockburn. He’s still my favorite Canadian musician – colourful lyrics, challenging messages, and a great guitar player!  Also someone who is interested in many cultures!

Courtesy of http://www.last.fm
Courtesy of http://www.last.fm


Thanks for your time Derek, we hope to have you back on the Hotspot soon!

If you are interested in learning more about Canadian Family statistics, this CBC news piece is very interesting! http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/09/19/census-data-families-households.html

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