With warm smiles and elaborate posters they’d created about their countries of origin, adult students greeted visitors at the Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society open house in Williams Lake Nov. 6.
While the society has had a home in the city for several years, in September it moved to a larger venue in the 100 block of First Avenue North.
“We’ve got room for classes and our own bathroom,” said Susan Nelson, English Language Services for Adults instructor. “We had our first class in the new space on Sept. 10.”
Nelson has been with IMSS for three years and coordinates the programs.
“The core of the language program is based on the Canadian language benchmark guides which try to help immigrants or speakers of other languages achieve certain levels of ability within the four realms — reading, writing, speaking and listening,” Nelson said.
For example, a Level 1 student can understand some familiar words, greet people, but would need help to understand what people are saying in English.
With their writing skills, they can copy words and numbers and maybe write small words.
By the time students achieve Level 8 they can comprehend difficult indirect questions about personal experiences, familiar topics and general knowledge.
“They’re practically ready to go on to college or university once they’ve completed Level 8,” Nelson said.
Presently there are 21 adults registered in the programs. They hail from Macedonia, Philippines, Korea, Japan, Switzerland, Mexico and China.
A third of the clients have Canadian spouses, and some of the others have family members living in the area.
They’ve moved here from places like the Lower Mainland to be closer to family members that have moved to Williams Lake. Others come here specifically to receive an authentic Canadian experience.
“Especially people from Asia. They will arrive in Vancouver and see it would be very easy to remain in their comfort zone, so they come here to broaden their experience,” Nelson said.
The students become close to one another, some stay for a year, others might be there for two or three.
“It’s like a support group and has nothing to do with where they came from. They have all had the same experience of being lost. They become really really close. Our Christmas parties are probably better than most family Christmas parties I think,” she said.
Adults can qualify to take the language programs free if they are over 18 years old, should be working on obtaining their permanent residency, or have it already.
“Caregivers fall into a different category and don’t have to have their permanent residency card. They can come anyway. Those “granny nannies” mostly coming from the Philippines might be here for a long time, or a short time, we don’t know, it depends on their employment situation.”
Because they are in a particularly vulnerable situation, they lobbied the federal government to recognize their vulnerability, and the government has relaxed some of the requirements, Nelson added.
Nelson encourages anyone from the community who might be willing to visit the students as a guest speaker, or invite them for a tour of the place they work, the facility they own or manage, or even the group they volunteer with.
“We’re supposed to have guest speakers in once a month and take tours into the community each month,” Nelson said.
In the past they’ve taken trips as far as Mount Polley Mine, Quesnel Forks, overnight to Prince George to go to the Health Fair, but in the winter it’s more difficult.
She’d prefer to take the students on tours in town to broaden their experience and let the community know they are here.
“I’ve sent out invitations to some of the First Nations groups in town because there is a strong interest by the students to learn more about the local First Nations communities.”
If anyone is interested in being a guest speaker or arranging a tour, Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 778-412-2999.