Conversation Class Helps Newcomers Build Confidence and Community

Language Cafe, The Salvation Army
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For many newcomers to Canada, English or French are not their first language, which makes it hard for them to find employment and engage socially. In fact, research says that, due to poor language skills, less than one in five immigrants are able to find work in their field.

“Learning a language opens up a world of opportunities, but you have to practice to improve,” says Captain Rachel Sheils of The Salvation Army in Thunder Bay. “Our conversation class helps people develop their English and French skills, which makes it easier for them to adapt in a new culture, be more successful in the job market and thrive in everyday life.”

The Salvation Army’s Language Café in Thunder Bay is a free, year-round, drop-in where participants meet with volunteers, one-on-one or one-on-two, to learn how to pronounce words, make up sentences and combine phrases.

Participants at language cafe

Participants at language café

“Every Monday people from Asia, Latin America, Europe, North America and the Middle East come through our doors into a warm and friendly environment,” says Sheils. “We have a mixture of participants, which include a newcomer who was an engineer in his home country but due to low English skills works as a prep cook at a restaurant, an international university student who wants to gain good command of written and spoken English, and a refugee from Syria who is unemployable because of his low level of English.

“Life can be frustrating when you have difficulty understanding and communicating,” says Sheils. “We just want to help.”