Inviting New Canadians

Inviting New Canadians
December 1991 / January 1992

Yvonne Roussy

Canadian culture .. even those born and raised here have a difficult time defining exactly what this is. For someone new to Canada, our customs and traditions must seem strange and sometimes intimidating. Friends of mine from different countries have told me that Canadians seem cold, conservative and lack a sense of humour; in short: “standoff-ish”.

I’m sure that this is not the image we wish to project. Yet, if I am honest with myself, I know that this image is a realistic one. Not too long ago, a fellow Council member who hails from another culture was a guest in my home. During his visit, we discussed the music and poetry of my guest’s native culture. He sang for me as we sat at the kitchen table. Suddenly I felt very uncomfortable. How was I to react, to show my appreciation? What was considered polite in his culture? This experience taught me that, as a Canadian, I must indeed seem aloof and cool – not the image I wish to project. At that moment, I also experienced some of the sense of alienation and isolation that must be commonplace for new arrivals to this culture. I began to imagine how it must feel if this type of situation occurs throughout the course of a day.

On that day, I learned a little about the plight of those who are new to Canada. I realized that this same feeling of being set apart from others can only be increased by the inability to converse in the language of one’s new home.

As a response to this problem, the Literacy Council of Kitchener-Waterloo at which I am a volunteer, offers speakers of other languages an opportunity to learn to speak, read and write in English. The Council is a non-profit, community based organization, dedicated to improving the quality of life in our community by enhancing self-esteem and social skills through increased literacy levels.

We offer one-on-one, student centered tutoring according to the Laubach system motto:

“Each one teach one”

This alternative to traditional classroom settings allows total privacy and confidentiality, and guarantees individualized attention for each student. In this way, we hope to break down some of the cultural barriers, and help new Canadians fulfil their basic need to communicate in our sometimes complex society.

Tutors are matched individually with students to provide the maximum potential in learning and growth for both. Speaker of other languages who are interested in improving their communication skills in English are invited to visit our office