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How Sharing Culture is Connecting Adult English Language Learners

When you’re learning a language it can sometimes be hard to connect. Recognizing that culture is something that can be experienced and shared regardless of one’s stage of language proficiency, the Edmonds Community School LINC Program recently hosted a cultural event for immigrants and refugees.

Burnaby School District offers this special federally-funded LINC program (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) that provides free English classes for adult immigrants and refugees, with a view to linking them with the language and knowledge to start their new lives in Canada. This recent event – put on in partnership with the African Descent Society – included drumming, dancing, a fashion show, and a presentation about black history in the Lower Mainland.

Yasin Kiraga Misago is Executive Director of the African Descent Society and spoke at the event. “It takes about ten years for refugees and immigrants to completely integrate into their new society,” said Misago. “Often, they come from terrible circumstances. They don’t know the language. They face culture shock. People feel isolated and often experience mental health issues. It’s so important to have a sense of belonging, to feel connected to others. The only way to remove culture shock is to participate in cultural activities.”

There are several students of African descent in the LINC program at Edmonds Community School. Yordanos Araya Medhanie recently immigrated to Canada with her husband. As she drummed along, watched, and listened, she couldn’t understand all of what was being said, but said she felt happy – happy to see her culture celebrated by her fellow students. She said with a warm smile, “It’s great. I am enjoying it.”

A refugee himself, Misago draws from personal experience.

“A lot of the migrants when they come here, they come with their culture, their history, their traditions, but when they go to their new community, they become isolated. So history – and these cultural activities, the cultural connection – helps them to connect to each other, to learn from each other and feel a sense of belonging and connection.”

More on LINC

LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) is funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and facilitated by the Burnaby School District. The program provides English classes for adult immigrants and refugees to help them gain the language and knowledge to start their new lives and settle in Canada. The classes incorporate English language learning with topics such as housing, banking, Canada’s political system and laws, and Canadian culture. Learn more.