This project aims to empower newcomers to learn English through their own stories. It involves 3 main components; stories of newcomers written in their native language, translation of that story into English, and multiple versions of the same story in various levels of English comprehension according to Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) Standards. The stories will be collected in our ESL library, available for ESL educators and learners to download or print.
For the pilot project, we are testing this workshop model with the goal of eventually being able to deliver broader impact through a “train-the-trainer” model and through online and open-source printable materials. We have developed printable and digital templates to capture the stories of newcomers. The stories are then translated by volunteer translators before added to our ESL library.
We are looking to partner with local libraries, community centres, newcomer agencies, and programs such as the TD Summer Reading club to promote and make the ESL library accessible to anyone that may need it.
The goal of the project is three-fold:
- Empower newcomers by giving them a platform to share their stories and feel that they have a voice as a citizen of Canada and contributing to the overall social fabric of the country;
- Create books out of the stories with side-by-side English and native language translations; and
- Educate established Canadians about the journey of newcomers to Canada through first-person stories.
In 2016 we met adult ESL teachers, Anne McGreggor-O’Neill and Anne Cairins (our Design Champions), who shared with us a challenge: teaching newcomers English with books that don’t reflect personal settlement journeys. They find it challenging to find relevant stories at appropriate reading levels. They talked about trips to the public library where librarians offered native English speaker books to ESL students that utilize reading tactics for toddlers. The formulas of rhyming and repetition work well for children under 5 learning to read for the first time, but the appeal is lost on adult newcomers who are simultaneously navigating the stress of settling in a new country.
At the core of our work the mission and drive is to create a sense of belonging for citizens across Canada. We see newcomers as core to what makes Canada unique and that engaging them early in their settlement journey is the one of the easiest ways of starting this conversation. We recognize that the settlement journey can be jarring, exciting, challenging, and joyous all at the same time. For newcomers this includes leaving behind the familiar and re-learning everything from housing, to work, and of course, language.
The storytelling templates are intended to reduce the feeling of evaluating an individual’s settlement journey and instead to serve as a reflective activity and learning opportunity. The hope is that this activity will lead to greater human insights and not feel like yet another assessment in the settlement process.
According to the 2016 Census, 21.9% of the Canadian population reported being a landed immigrant or or permanent resident and 1 in 5 are foreign born. We believe Canada has always had the reputation of being welcoming to others and continues to be. The need and desire to be able to speak English and confidently build community is one of the key struggles we have heard from newcomers. We believe a strength of Canada is to recognize individual identities and journeys of each Canadian and to do so we want to help preserve native languages as well as increase access to learning English.
This project is unique as it is a first-hand telling of experiences arriving and living in Canada written by and for newcomers. These stories capture the very real personal struggles newcomers faced as they settle in Canada. The project identifies common struggles and solutions that have been used by newcomers.
“In our group, there are many students who have interesting stories. They give us presentation of themselves. It was very wonderful and enjoyful.”
“This session give me various question about how to introduce myself. My favourite place, music, memory, and experience of moving to Canada. How to use ‘first, next, then, finally.’ It gave me the structure of my story.”
“Usually I feel very nervous to speak in front of people. But yesterday I was little bit confident to share my life story with my friends. That was good challenging for me.”
“Over the past 2 hours, I was here for one hour and back home for another. Thank you for letting me travel back home today.”
“It was good to have the space to let that all go.”
“There’s no time for me. No time to cry. My youngest child always ask me when we’re going back home. I can’t cry in front of them. This is a good thing. I needed that.”
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