by Barbara Castrovillo Seasholtz
Luis Guadarrama’s English
teachers at Concordia’s Continuing Education Language Institute (CELI)
had warned him it could happen.
For little more than a month, Guadarrama, who is from Vera Cruz, Mexico,
had been carrying out his daily activities in English when suddenly, his
“brain was empty of words.” Not a syllable in Spanish or English would
come out of his mouth. “It was a cultural and linguistic crisis,” he remarked,
and “a strange situation.” Nevertheless, he said, his English noticeably
improved from there on in.
Guadarrama, an educational technology graduate student, had been working
hard to get to that point. In Mexico, he surrounded himself with English
books, television shows and movies. He even went so far as to speak to
his siblings in English. Then, when he arrived in Montreal, he studied
at the YMCA. and the CELI, attended Counselling and Development’s group
conversation sessions and made native-English-speaking friends.
Guadarrama still struggles, though, with his pronunciation and written
assignments, and he wishes Concordia would invest in an English-language
multimedia lab with readily available tutors for writing and speaking
assistance. “Studying in a language that is not your own requires a lot
of work and help,” he said.
And that sort of help cannot be too plentiful. Jia Yanming, a computer
science major from AnShan, China, believes that the only way to improve
language skills is to “practice, practice, practice.” That is why he regularly
attends Counselling and Development’s conversation groups.
explained that many Chinese students face a frustrating “barrier to understanding
and speaking.” In order to break down that barrier, he suggested the university
also offer credit courses in speech and comprehension.
On many ESL students’ wish lists was increased individual practice time
with native English speakers. Zohreh Motamedi, an electrical engineering
PhD student from Esfahan, Iran, said she thanks her English-speaking friends
and conversation group time for the rapid improvement of her English.
Motamedi, who has only been in Canada for three months, hoped the university
could help her to have more contact with English speakers. “I want to
speak English all the time,” she added enthusiastically.
So does Harpiyar Singh, an Indian from Ludhiana, Punjab. “The best way
to improve your English is to use it as much as possible,” he said. To
achieve that goal, the mechanical engineering graduate student advised
ESL learners to meet native speakers, speak English as often as possible
and not be shy.
In fact, Maryam Montazeri from Sari, Iran, emphatically encourages ESL
students to take advantage of Concordia’s free English-language services.
After all, stressed the graduate electrical and computer engineering student,
“There isn’t any better way to improve your English.”
Montazeri, who particularly benefited from Counselling and Development’s
individual writing assistance, has seen great improvement in only four
months. She can now read her text books and write papers more easily.
And, she added, “it also helps me to communicate better with my professors.”