Communication is an essential survival skill that enables expression, information exchange, and understanding. If you’ve ever traveled to, or lived in, another country that spoke a language foreign to your own, you may be able to envision some of the barriers that exist for a Calgarian whose first language is not English. From everyday activities such as ordering a coffee, talking to a neighbor about the weather, or asking a stranger for directions, to more complex processes like navigating the Canadian legal system, registering for courses at a post-secondary institution, or enrolling a child in school, verbal and written communication permeates all aspects of our lives.
Free, volunteer-supported Practice English classes at the Women’s Centre provide a place for women to practice their language skills in a supportive group setting.
“This class is really good practice for my English. I have no extended family in Calgary, only my husband. Here I can talk to other women and practice my English. This class is very important in my life,” says Adrianna, a Practice English participant.
Sharon, a retired ESL teacher, has been volunteering with the Tuesday morning Practice English group for about seven years; five of the women have been attending for as long as Sharon has been teaching. While the format of each class varies, the focus is always on conversation and pronunciation.
“At least half of the class is spent talking about what is happening in their lives, what is happening around Calgary, and any other topic they would like to discuss,” says Sharon.
“Grammar is only necessary if it is needed for the students to be understood. Conversational skills are necessary for their voices to be heard.”
Sharon says one of the biggest reasons she thinks women are committed to Practice English is not just for the opportunity to learn and practice English, but for the opportunity to socialize and connect.
“I have met so many friends here. I never miss a class because I enjoy my time here,” says Man Ting, a long-time participant.
Starting this month, we will be offering two classes a week: Tuesdays from 9:45am-11:45am and Wednesdays from 10am-12pm. Anyone who is interested in attending can contact Caterina or Sarah at 403-264-1155 or email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.