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

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 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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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.

From China with love, CultureWorks graduate takes on major role with the Canadian school he started with.

CultureWorks’ Peter Choi and his wife, Nina Dang, are doing what they enjoy most, learning more about Canada each day.
CultureWorks’ Peter Choi and his wife, Nina Dang, are doing what they enjoy most, learning more about Canada each day.

It would be easy to say Peter Choi is a gentleman and a scholar and move on. But that is unfair. He is much more than that.

Peter is a father. He is a husband. He is thoughtful and articulate in two languages. He has Masters degrees from two different countries, neither of which he gathered in his home country of China.

And for purposes of this story, he is a graduate of CultureWorks who has never left the ESL school behind.

While gathering Masters No. 2 in Computer Programming at Western University, he took on part-time duties in IT support for our current events online class known as the Daily Boomalang.

When school ended, Peter stayed. And CultureWorks was extremely happy he did.

Our ESL school is proud to announce that Peter will be assisting full time with technical support

CW President and Founder Tina Bax recently announced that Peter will be using his specialization in computer-to-computer networking in “supporting us full-time as we arrange portions of our course” in new and dynamic initiatives in China.

CultureWorks Chief Operating Officer Amrik Sidhu was impressed from the moment he met Peter.

“When I first met him, I didn’t really have any expectations,” Amrik said recently. “I knew what my needs were and it wasn’t really an interview, I just wanted to know ‘does he even understand the challenges I am having?’

“And as soon as I posed a few questions that we were struggling to answer, he knew the answer right off the bat. Within the first — I would say few minutes — I knew he could help us solve the problems.”

Peter’s role will be helping full-time as CultureWorks arranges to deliver portions of its course through Chinese faculties in Harbin and Xi’an.

Amrik said it always helps when somebody speaks the language when they are talking to technical support.

“It’s incredibly valuable to have him as a resource, not only because he is technically astute, but also because he speaks the language and he has connectivity within China that can help you get around digging for answers.”

Now that’s enough – for now — about Peter, the computer wizard; time to learn more about Peter, the person.

Why Peter chose to study English in Canada

Peter, now 42, came to Canada at the end of 2016 and his first stop was CultureWorks in London, Ont. His English was not good and he admits he lost many well-paid jobs in China because of that. He also thought he needed to learn “even a little bit” about Western culture.

After gaining his first Masters at Seoul National University, he had worked for two Korean companies – Samsung and Kookmin bank – for six years in Beijing.

“To be honest, the last job I had was very good, a well-paid position. I was an IT manager, but I was a little tired. Usually at the company before 7 and back home after 8:30 p.m., 7 days a week,” Peter said.

“I was a little tired and I thought what exactly I want in the next 10 or 20 years, so I thought that was a good time to restart my life in Canada.”

Peter’s experience as a CultureWorks student

He came alone to Canada late in 2016 and was a CultureWorks student for eight months. His wife Nina Dang, now 38, joined him in 2017. The couple who first met at university in South Korea had their first child, Ava Cai, seven months ago.

Peter is proud of his first child, Ava Cai, now seven months old
Peter is proud of his first child, Ava Cai, now seven months old

Peter said the CultureWorks experience was more like a family experience. The teachers, he said, teach you not only English as a second language, but also the Canadian culture and how to survive in Canada.

“The teachers encourage the students to use critical thinking. More questions are open questions. There is no standard answer, especially in the Boomalang class,” he said.

“We don’t have the textbooks; we don’t have the exams. We just encourage the students to open their minds and exchange thinking about the news or something that just happened around them.”

Peter is over-the-top excited about his new role with CultureWorks. To be fair, CW management feels the same.

“CultureWorks has a big project in China and we have a partner in Harbin,” Peter said. “We need an IT person to support this project from Canada. Because most of the resources are in Canada, including the teachers, the materials and also IT support.

“My role is to provide IT support to the manager or to the server based on the cloud technology, remotely to the server in Beijing. My role is like the bridge, connecting Chinese students and Canadian resources for our Chinese partners.”

Peter’s role with CultureWorks is an important one as our ESL school makes major changes.

Meanwhile, here are a few of Peter’s thoughts on three different topics. Enjoy!

1. Peter on Chinese students studying in Canada

I want to say to Chinese students: Open your minds and don’t just focus on the studying. That is just a part of your life. For the young Chinese students, you have more important things that you should enjoy, especially when you come to Canada. This is a place you can enjoy in your life, not only because of the English study, but also you can build your own opinions about this world, about globalization. We need you; your family needs you; China also needs you.

2. Peter on why he chose to move to Canada

Compared to other countries, Canada’s geographical location and climate cannot be called excellent, but this does not stop Canada from being known as one of the world’s most developed countries. Exploring the secrets of Canada’s success is one of the reasons that attracted me to come here. Through the two years of staying in Canada, I think the main reasons for success of Canada are:

  1. Canada’s inclusiveness and openness. As is well known, Canada is a model of multi-ethnic, multicultural integration. It embraces any culture, race and religion. I have seen many churches, mosques and temples in London. This inclusiveness and openness attracts talented people from all over the world and provides a steady stream of blood for Canada’s development. On the other hand, based on a deep understanding of the different culture, Canada can win the respect of partners in international trade, which also promotes Canada’s economic development.
  2. Canadian attitude towards life. The cold climate did not make Canadians have a negative attitude towards life, but instead made Canadians feel calm and kindness. I can’t remember how many times strangers took me to catch the bus. This enthusiasm for life makes Canadians not afraid of any difficulties and always have confidence in life and the future.

3. Peter on the relationship between Canada and China

China and Canada have deep traditional friendships. According to historical records, trade between Canada and China began in the 18th century. In modern times, this relationship has been further deepened. The Chinese people will never forget Norman Bethune’s contribution to China. Grateful of Bethune’s altruistic help to China, the nation’s normal elementary school textbook still has the essay today. Therefore, the Chinese people have a special feeling for Canada, which has always been the first choice for studying and immigration.

I think there is quarreling even between the couple, not to mention two distant countries. What is happening now is only an episode and will not affect the main theme of friendship between the two countries.

Would you like to study English in Canada?

Learn more about the programs and activities offered at CultureWorks!

Considering an ESL program in Canada? Here’s why celebrating Christmas in Canada is a unique experience

ESL program in Canada

Winter in Canada is a truly wonderful time of the year. Snow covers the ground, and shops and homes are covered with decorations such as wreaths, lights, and garlands. There is so much to enjoy during this time of year. For many ESL students, experiencing a Canadian winter is exciting. The holiday season adds another fun element, which includes tasty foods, fun songs, and more!

Here are just a few reasons why Christmas in Canada is a unique experience.

Christmas in Canada incorporates traditions and foods from many different cultures

Christmas in Canada includes elements from many different cultures. For example, some Canadians enjoy foods such as Christmas pudding, which is a traditional British dessert. Canadians may also eat Yule log (called Buche de Noel in French). Yule log is a round cake shaped like a tree log. It’s a tradition that was brought to Canada from France and still included in festivities to this day.

A Yule log is a dessert often enjoyed at Christmas
A Yule log is a dessert often enjoyed at Christmas

American traditions are also found in Canada too, as Canadians drink eggnog, a sweet milky beverage that is usually only found in Canada and the United States during this time of year. Grocery stores may also sell panettone, a light Italian fruit cake.

Canadians have many different faiths and traditions, so the holiday season isn’t just about Christmas. Hanukkah is celebrated by many Canadians all over the country, as is Kwanzaa. For students who want to experience many different cultures while learning English, enrolling in an ESL program in Canada could be a great idea!

Music is very important to Christmas celebrations in Canada

In Canada, celebrating Christmas includes plenty of music. You might see carollers sing songs outside to raise money for charity, or hear radio stations play popular Christmas songs.

Canada’s oldest Christmas carol is the Huron Carol, a song originally written in the language of the Huron/Wendat people. This song dates back to the 17th century, and has been passed down for generations, as well as translated into French and English.

You can listen to the Huron Carol in all three languages here:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6IG6F6E5Ac]

Canada is one of the biggest producers of Christmas trees in the world

If you want to study English in Canada because you love nature, then this could be a wonderful time to enjoy. Winter in Canada is an experience that is quite unique, and landscapes become very beautiful as they are covered with snow.

Pine trees grow all over the country. In fact, if you decide to go for a hike or walk in the woods, you’ll likely see plenty of them. In the past, many Canadians would cut down their own pine tree to bring home and decorate for Christmas. However, most Christmas trees are now grown on farms. Canada has over a thousand Christmas tree farms, and exports trees to countries all over the world!

Canada has a post address for Santa Claus

Canadian parents usually don’t lie to their children. However, Christmas is an exception. Children in Canada often grow up hearing stories about Santa Claus, a jolly man who lives in the North Pole and delivers presents to children on Christmas. In reality, parents are the ones who buy the gifts, and sneak them under the tree at night when their children are sleeping.

Children write letters to Santa, asking for presents
Children write letters to Santa, asking for presents

It might sound a little strange, but Canadians take this tradition seriously! They take it so seriously that Santa Claus even has an official postal code so that children can write letters to him. Hundreds of volunteers work hard to read each letter and send a reply. If any children ask you about Santa Claus, you can carry of the tradition and tell them that he is real. It’s one of the many fun things about celebrating Christmas in Canada!

Do you want to attend English as a second language school?

Learn more about the programs available at CultureWorks!

CultureWorks 4th Annual Holiday Open House can be summed up in a thousand words.

study English in Canada
CultureWorks teacher Melissa Douglas and her daughter Lena enjoy all the festivities at the Holiday Open House. (photo credit: WHA CHOI/CultureWorks)

Google the expression “a photo is worth a thousand words” and it may take you in that many directions.

There is not a clear answer where the term originated, but one popular suggestion is from Frederick R. Barnard and his 1921 article where he says “one look is worth a thousand words.” He was writing about the effectiveness of graphics.

Now where are we going with this? Obviously, to an image in some form. Look up, look way up and you will see what we are taking about.

The photo is of CultureWorks teacher Melissa Douglas and her daughter, Lena. Photographer was Wha Choi, a CultureWorks and Western University engineering graduate.

“She (Lena) is a joy… and some days a tyrant,” Melissa said with a smile.

The event was the CultureWorks 4th Annual Holiday Open House at the Mary Manor (White House) on the Brescia University College campus.

An evening of fun at our ESL school

On this evening, CultureWorks students, alumni, staff and family were all invited to enjoy the festive season with games, food and yes, even Santa Claus.

Four current CultureWorks students signal all is going well at the Holiday Open House. (photo credit: WHA CHOI/CultureWorks)
Four current CultureWorks students signal all is going well at the Holiday Open House. (photo credit: WHA CHOI/CultureWorks)

Students are from many countries and many religions, but somehow Christmas plays a large role when the event is held late in the calendar year in Canada.

The photo of Lena and Melissa sums up, in many ways, the tale of the evening – smiles, hugs, location, treats, students, staff, children, love and respect.

Graduates of our ESL school share their thoughts

Many other photos are included here, covering off many more words. But the alumni students also did include some of their thoughts on this day.

Take Laura for example. She graduated from CultureWorks in 2015 and is now a junior designer for a mechanical engineering company in London, Ontario.

“I have just graduated from Western University for one year; I can’t be a senior yet,” Laura said with a wide grin.

“For Canadians, Christmas is like a new year. For us (in China), it is similar to Spring Festival. They get together and they enjoy and celebrate dinner and exchange gifts.”

And now from Ahmad, a Syrian student who graduated from our ESL school in 2016. He is in his first year of engineering at Western University.

“I feel like Christmas, everyone goes to visit their family in their home town. It’s a really good holiday so people can see each other, have fun with each other,” Ahmad said,

“So I am here now for the Christmas Open House. I can meet my friends from two years ago and meet my teachers. It’s a good thing.”

Finally, from Yuan, a 2016 graduate from China who is taking psychology and primary education at Western University.

“I do enjoy the atmosphere when people celebrate some festivals. It gives me a sense of Homecoming. That’s really important to me. That’s really a sweet thing for me to see,” Yuan said.

“Also, I feel like I am a bit lonely because obviously in China, we don’t celebrate Christmas.”

A word from CultureWorks Founder and President Tina Bax

And CultureWorks Founder and President Tina Bax did not miss the efforts put forward by the staff on this day.

From left, CultureWorks Student Services Coordinator Liz Macedo, Vice Principal Stan Rath and Founder and President Tina Bax join the holiday festivities. (photo credit: WHA CHOI/CultureWorks)
From left, CultureWorks Student Services Coordinator Liz Macedo, Vice Principal Stan Rath and Founder and President Tina Bax join the holiday festivities. (photo credit: WHA CHOI/CultureWorks)

“Thanks to all of you who came out to see our students. You brought your time and your children; you cared, you laughed, you worked hard … and our students thoroughly loved it as they do each year,” Tina said.

Can’t wait for the 5th annual event, everyone agreed.

In the meantime, here are more than 7,000 “words” to celebrate. We needed more room.

Students, teachers and their children enjoy the evening in a variety of ways.
Students, teachers and their children enjoy the evening in a variety of ways.

Would you like to study English in Canada?

Learn more about the programs available at CultureWorks!

CultureWorks front-office staff share some observations when engaging ESL school students in the ‘White House’

From left to right: Janet, Camella, and Tammy
From left to right: Janet, Camella, and Tammy

Today, we are going to have discussions with several CultureWorks staff members in London, Ontario, who, on most occasions, are the first to meet new international students from China, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Jordan, Turkey, Iran, Democratic Republic of the Congo, etc.

What we hope you will discover is a genuine caring for the students. And a real challenge in learning how to speak foreign languages. Both are understandable.

So let’s see what Liz, Camella, Janet and Tammy have to say after a total of 24 years of opening the door of our ESL school to many, many international students.

And to be fair, we canvassed some current students for their thoughts. All happen to be from China.


Student Services Coordinator

Joined CultureWorks in 2008

“Oh jeez, when I first started, it was very difficult. I was not used to the accents. I couldn’t understand anything they were saying, so it was a lot of hand signals, trying to figure things out. Now, I totally know what they are saying. That was hard.

“At first, it was tough getting to know them. They were young. I was used to young people, but not international students. So I didn’t really know what kind of obstacles they were facing before they arrived. But now I know and understand them a lot better.

“The whole culture shock thing (was difficult) — the single child households, as opposed to our Saudi students with multiple siblings. Real huge differences. And just knowing how to react differently with those different groups.

“For the most part, they are all really great kids. You always get that one or two. They are great kids. The thing that I notice is that young people are the same no matter what part of the world they come from. I think I can relate to that because I have kids — or I had kids at that time at that same age.”


Finance and Administration Associate

Joined CultureWorks in 2010

“Sometimes, (the students) don’t understand what an invoice is or tuition or a bill. It can be a little bit funny getting them to understand what I am asking them for. Usually, they do come around and we figure it out.

“There are always some excuses, you know. It’s not the typical ‘my grandmother passed away.’ But there are also funny things that they come up with, but generally on the whole the London students are very responsible.

“It was really quite different coming from a corporate background to dealing with students, but it’s been interesting and it’s been fun. Most of the students are a lot of fun and it’s really nice getting to know students from different cultures.

“My pronunciation is much better now than when I started. I know that ‘X’ means ‘shu’. So I have grown into that part. But yes, it’s a little better than when I started. I always ask them ‘did I pronounce your name correctly’ and ‘how do you say it,’ so it makes them kind of laugh at me the way I pronounce words. But yes we have a pretty good rapport.”

Students at our ESL school share their experiences at the CultureWorks Head Office, also sometimes called the “White House”



Joined CultureWorks in 2014

“We have had some pretty interesting discussions going back and forth, especially for students applying on their own. Obviously, this is their second language and so interpretation of what I have asked for. But in the end, we seem to manage to get through it after multiple emails and the best thing is to get that final confirmation that they understand everybody has arrived safely. So that is always the best.

“A lot of times I will just bring out a copy from a different student to give them an example. It’s kind of funny when you are only trying to show them what a sealed stamped envelope looks like, but trying to translate that sometimes does not come through. So just showing them what it looks like works probably a 100-per-cent better.

“In most cases, it is to insure that they understand that they are required to complete certain steps by a certain time, especially for their (university) offers to stay valid with our partners. So trying to assist them to receive the documents from their home countries in the formats that the universities require can sometimes be a little tricky in translating.

“I am excited when they have applied to a program and received an offer. They are so excited to feel that they can move forward with their plans to do their post-graduate studies. Any way that I can assist them in reaching that dream or goal is amazing.”


Administration Assistant.

Joined CultureWorks in 2017.

“I didn’t know if I was ever going to be able to adjust to understanding them and finding ways to work about that barrier of me not being able to understand. So I have learned to ask a lot of people for emails. If you could email me your question, I can understand and I can respond. I have found that is the best way.

“I have learned a little bit about the enunciation and how different it is. Different letters. Even their test is spelled H U I K A O, I would never have known it is pronounced HEEKOW. So things like that in learning different letters and how they sound. So I am learning a little bit.

“You know what my favourite thing is now? I have been here for almost two years. It is that they know my name now. I see them out on campus when I am out walking and they say ‘Hi Tammy.’ I love it.

I love that they know me. I love going on class trips with them and getting to know them more than one on one, not just administration stuff.

“I love them. I think they are great. I often say, too, I think I have a lot of respect for them. They have come to a completely different country, different culture, different language at age of 17, or 18. I could never have done that. It’s taken a lot of guts, so I really admire them. I respect them a lot.”

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CultureWorks Academic Director thrilled to earn her PhD, hours of research and a 200-page dissertation later

study English in Canada
CultureWorks Academic Director Meredith McGregor enjoys a drink at the Grad Club soon after earning her doctorate degree at Western. (Photo courtesy of Paul Mayne/Western News)

Meredith McGregor grew up on a horse farm in Lambton County, west of London, Ontario; began her undergrad at Western University in 2000 after finishing high school in Petrolia, Ontario; taught English in Mexico for a year; returned to Western to garner her Masters in Hispanic cultural studies; travelled extensively; worked on a Japanese cruise ship, teaching Spanish and dance; taught aerobics at GoodLife fitness club; tutored students.

Tired yet? Not Meredith McGregor.

Meredith’s journey

After all that time spent criss-crossing the world, Meredith began life as an ESL teacher at CultureWorks in 2010 and continues to do so with her current role as Academic Director. And she has the added support of her husband, Sam, and her young daughter, Stella.

Fellow CW teacher Karen Preston helps out with Meredith and her daughter, Stella.
Fellow CW teacher Karen Preston helps out with Meredith and her daughter, Stella.

And in recent weeks, she successfully completed her defence of her doctorate degree in linguistics, the final stage of a degree she began working on in 2014.

“I always wanted to do it, so while I was doing it – especially when I got started to write the dissertation I was so excited that I got to that point. It was like ‘I am writing my thesis to get my PhD as a teacher.’ I was so excited to be to that point.”

The research Meredith completed

Meredith, now 37, said her thesis was in language acquisition and study abroad.

“Basically what my research says is that we send these students on study abroad and then we don’t really support them that much. We just think ‘oh you’re going off to a place … you are going to be able to talk to all these people and you’re going to come back speaking the language.’ That’s just kind of the myth that we perpetuate.

“What I learned a lot from my research and take from it is that they need the support. So you can make the experience so much more meaningful, so much better to have support. You just don’t send them out and say goodbye, learn the language and see you in six months. You maintain a relationship with them, you help them reflect, mentor them, help them through the process of learning.”

Meredith said students don’t always have the awareness of what they are learning and how they are learning it. Her research was looking about how you can help students rather than “leaving them to their own devices.”

How our ESL school supports students

She sees the connection with CultureWorks when they play host to students from many parts of the world.

“We (CultureWorks) do a good job of that. Our students who come in, we support them a lot, we provide them with advisory meetings with our teachers, we set goals with them, we do academic support, they do activities through student services that go places.

“We try to foster that. I think we do a really good job of supporting the students. Maybe more than other situations the students might be in where they are just sent off to figure it out.”

Meredith said our ESL school was “really flexible” when it came to her schedule for PhD course work time. Her time did not involve traditional comprehensive exams. Instead, she was required to develop courses, university-level course credits and then defend them to a panel.

Celebrating a wonderful achievement

The defence included four examiners, with the 200-page dissertation; and a public lecture (with about 20 people on hand this day, including her husband, Sam, and CW principal Derek Martin). The final successful decision followed.

And one final stop that day on the Western campus, a traditional drink for successful PhD grads at the Grad Club.

“So I didn’t really care too much about going, but my husband said ‘you’ve got to drink from that cup.’ He thought that was so cool. So just he and I went over and then just had a drink.”

And what about that doctor title?

“Generally speaking, I think that (the doctor title) would be a little bit weird,” Meredith said. “Day to day, I don’t see a lot of reason for it, but maybe at a conference being introduced this way is kind of a nice thing.”

Fair enough, Dr. McGregor.

For more information on Meredith’s road to her PhD, see this story in Western News.

Taking students deeper into a foreign language

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Why study English in Canada?

ESL program in Canada

English is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world. It is spoken by approximately 1.5 billion people, and is the official language of over 50 countries. This presents a world of opportunity for students who would like to study English. However, it also presents a world of choice. How do you choose which country to study in?

Here are some of the reasons why more and more students are deciding to learn English in Canada.

Experiencing Canada’s four seasons is a lot of fun

Not many countries around the world experience the four seasons seen in Canada. While it’s true that winters can get quite cold, it’s also true that summers can be very warm too. Temperatures can be as cold as -20°C in the winter, as warm as 30°C during the summer.

Each season in Canada brings fun new activities and adventures
Each season in Canada brings fun new activities and adventures

Each season brings its own joys. The first snowfall of the winter is a wonderful moment that many ESL students treasure. Winter sports such as tubing and skating are also activities that students can look forward to.

The spring is when maple sap is harvested and turned into maple syrup, which is why many Canadians and ESL students enjoy visiting a traditional sugar shack during this time of year. In the fall, many ESL students can marvel as the leaves of trees change colour. And in the summer, the warm temperatures make it easier to enjoy camping, visiting an amusement park, or spending a day at the beach. For students who want variety and a unique experience, studying in Canada is a terrific idea.

There is so much natural beauty to enjoy in Canada

Even though Canada is the second largest country in the world, it has a relatively small population of 37 million. It’s no surprise then that much of the country is unpopulated, and that many large woods and natural preserves exist for students to enjoy.

Canada also has many beautiful natural wonders, including the breathtaking Niagara Falls. Whether enjoying parks and bike paths in the city or travelling to a beautiful preservation nearby, there are many ways you can appreciate Canada’s natural beauty during your studies.

Canada is a very safe country

For many students who choose to study abroad, safety is a top concern. It’s important to feel safe when studying in another country, especially when you may have difficulty speaking the local language.

This is one of the reasons why many students are choosing to study English in Canada. Canada is one of the safest countries on the planet. According to a recent survey, Canada is the 8th safest country in the world—ahead of both the United States and the United Kingdom.

Canada is a welcoming and multicultural country

In addition to being very safe, Canada is also very welcoming and multicultural. In fact, multiculturalism has been an official policy in Canada for decades. Canadians also welcome diversity. As former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau once said:

“Uniformity is neither desirable nor possible in a country the size of Canada… What could be more absurd than the concept of an “all-Canadian” boy or girl? A society which emphasizes uniformity is one which creates intolerance and hate. A society which eulogizes the average citizen is one which breeds mediocrity. What the world should be seeking, and what in Canada we must continue to cherish, are not concepts of uniformity but human values: compassion, love, and understanding.”

There are many high quality ESL programs in Canada

Of course, for many students one of the most important aspects of studying abroad is enrolling in an excellent ESL program. It’s important for students to get plenty of practice speaking English, and to learn from experienced and highly qualified instructors.

A high quality ESL program can make all the difference
A high quality ESL program can make all the difference

Fortunately, Canada is known for the high quality of its programs. For many ESL students, this, along with the many other benefits that come with studying in Canada, make our country an excellent choice.

Would you like to enrol in an ESL program in Canada?

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Studying an intensive English program in October? What to know about Canadian Thanksgiving

study English in Canada

Thanksgiving in the United States is very famous around the world, but you might be surprised to learn that it’s a holiday also celebrated in Canada. It’s similar to U.S. Thanksgiving in a lot of different ways, but in Canada it is held on the second Monday of October. That means this year’s Thanksgiving is on Monday, October 8th, and good news—it’s a public holiday here!

It’s a great opportunity to enjoy Canadian culture, but how do you celebrate it properly? You might be experiencing this great day for the first time while learning the English language, so here’s a quick guide on what Canadian Thanksgiving is all about.

Thanksgiving was celebrated in Canada before the United States

The first Thanksgiving celebration in Canada is believed to have taken place in Newfoundland in 1578 to celebrate explorer Sir Martin Frobisher’s safe journey from Europe. That’s 43 years before the first Thanksgiving in the U.S.! It has been a national holiday here since 1879 and it has taken place on the second Monday in October since 1957. Some Canadian provinces celebrate the day more than others, and Ontario is a great place to be for Thanksgiving when you’re studying an intensive English program.

Eat delicious food for the day

Avoid following a diet on Canadian Thanksgiving because this is a great day to eat lots of delicious food. Turkey is the most traditional meat eaten on the day, and most people also enjoy stuffing, mashed potatoes, and different vegetables. It’s almost identical to a traditional Christmas dinner until the dessert arrives. Traditionally, the dessert served on Thanksgiving is pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie is the perfect fall treat, so why not try it with friends!

Enjoy a delicious turkey dinner on Thanksgiving
Enjoy a delicious turkey dinner on Thanksgiving

Go for a nice walk while you study English in Canada

Fall is a wonderful time of year in Canada. The air is cool and it’s a perfect opportunity to go for a walk after eating a big dinner. Go to a local park and enjoy the sight of leaves falling off the trees, or go on a bike ride with friends if you have a little more energy. Check out whether there are any suitable places for pumpkin picking too, which is a fun activity to try. Winter can be very cold here in Canada, so take advantage of the nice fall temperatures on Canadian Thanksgiving.

Enjoy the beautiful fall scenery after dinner
Enjoy the beautiful fall scenery after dinner

Football and hockey are popular sports on Thanksgiving

Did you know that Canada has its own version of U.S. football? They’re almost identical and Thanksgiving is a big day for the Canadian Football League (CFL). Lots of people relax in front of the television to watch the games. If you’re feeling more active, you can also go out on the streets and play some road hockey. Fall is the start of the hockey season, so it’s a great time to start learning more about the sport.

It’s a public holiday so beware of shop closures

Thanksgiving is an official holiday in Ontario, which means that most people don’t have to go to work. Unfortunately, that means that a lot of your favourite shops and restaurants might not be open on the day. So, if you’re attending English as a second language school and need to do some shopping, try and do it a few days beforehand.

Do you want to study English in Canada?

Develop your language skills and have great fun at CultureWorks.