By Laura McCaffrey
Recognizing the Language-Learning Gap
Imagine moving to a foreign country and not knowing anyone. Imagine the stress of needing to find a job to support your family, but not speaking the language. Imagine trying to integrate into the community and culture, but not knowing where to go for support. For many new immigrants and refugees to Canada, this is the unfortunate reality.
There are, of course, resources and programs that help newcomers learn English. The problem is that traditional classroom-based learning is not effective for everyone—not to mention the fact that not everyone can afford to be unemployed for the months or years that it takes to learn a new language.
Professors Eva Kartchava and Michael Rodgers of Carleton University’s School of Linguistics and Language Studies recognized this gap and wanted to do something about it.
Developing the Concept
Kartchava and Rodgers feel strongly about finding innovative ways to provide language training to new immigrants.
“To me, being Here for Good means being useful. As a teacher and a second-language speaker myself, nothing brings me more satisfaction than knowing that I helped someone learn and reach their goals,” Kartchava shares.
In order to address the current gap in language training in Canada, the Carleton team needed to take a creative approach. Kartchava and Rodgers have long since recognized the potential of the ‘work-based language training’ approach—which has recently grown in popularity in Europe but is still relatively new to Canada—and felt that this would be the ideal solution to the challenges faced by new immigrants to the country. “The idea is to teach and develop real-world language skills that are needed in a particular industry or job type,” explains Rodgers.
As fate would have it, the Canadian government released a bid in 2017 to support research endeavours that proposed new ways of teaching a language. This extra push inspired the Carleton duo to get to work and begin contacting community organizations and potential partners that could help support their vision.
They found a perfect fit in the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO). A local organization that supports immigrants by providing creative programs related to settlement and integration, employment, language instruction and counselling, OCISO was already exploring work-based language training methods.