As a new immigrant to a country such as Canada or the United States, there sometimes can be a lot of unexpected problems that you’ll face when you begin assimilating into a new society. This is particularly true if you are an ESL student, or someone who doesn’t know english very well.
When you are finally sworn in as a new citizen, and begin your life here, you may be surprised to find that some people can be rude and ignorant. Why? Is it because you don’t speak english perfectly yet? Is it because you don’t “look” Canadian? Whatever the reason, Canada is sometimes referred to as a “cultural mosaic” and full of nice, warm, welcoming people representing all cultures. In fact, that might be why you wanted to come here in the first place.
Yes, most Canadians are very polite, but even though the majority of Canadians will welcome you with open arms, there is also a small but less friendly minority who can be much less hospitable to those who don’t seem to be “from here” or fluently speak the the main language – English. It’s not fair, but sometimes you might encounter such ignorance, and often – unfortunately – it relates to a lack of english speaking fluency, or understanding the language in general.
Problems and Solutions for New Immigrants and ESL Learners
In this article, we will attempt to break down some of the problems / hardships / obstacles that you can expect as an new immigrant to Canada or an ESL student and then provide some techniques to cope with / overcome them.
Problem #1 – Your intelligence will be questioned if you are not fluent in English.
This is one of the most unfortunate truths of being an ESL learner in a predominantly English-speaking country. For some reason, the long-lasting perception that those that are not fluent in the English language are somehow of inferior intelligence is a pervasive theory that has stuck around for years.
It is difficult to overcome this barrier as one will not be able to magically use better English overnight. However, through hard work and demonstrating one’s proficiency in other things that are not necessarily language-bound such as math, science, engineering, and technological proficiency, these barriers can be overcame.
The best thing to do in a situation where your intelligence is being questioned is to remain calm and remind yourself that the only true barometer of your intelligence lies within yourself.
Also, you will eventually have the ultimate advantage here because bilingual speakers have more job opportunities, so if you can eventually learn English and write / speak it fluently, you will have 2+ languages at your disposal!
Problem #2 – Some individuals may not be willing to help you.
Although this is not a common occurrence, individuals may not be willing to accommodate the fact that you are not able to speak the English language well. They may refuse to take the extra time to comprehend the message that you are trying to convey or they may even poke fun at the fact that you are unable to speak with a high level of fluency or without a foreign accent.
When running into individuals like this, it is best to ignore and avoid them. Their energy is neither constructive nor appropriate and it exudes a level of negativity that one should try their hardest to avoid.
Problem #3 – There might be a lack of resources in your native language.
This is one of the trickiest things about being an ESL learner from a country with an ‘unpopular’ language. While in Canada, there are many products and resources that have French and Spanish alternatives on them, this is not the case with outside languages.
Thus, if one is an ESL learner in Canada that speaks Urdu for instance, they will more than likely be unable to find another individual in the area that also speaks the same language as them that can assist them in instances where they are unable to comprehend the English being spoken or communicate in English.
We feel that it is imperative that ESL learners whom have a first language that is not commonly used in the country that they are in figure out a way to understand and convey crucial messages in English or they may find themselves in serious jeopardy if they are in a life-threatening situation or one of similar importance/urgency. In other words, learn the most important English phrases first, before tackling the whole entire language.
Problem #4 – There will be an inherent bias from some people.
Similar to the idea that individuals may assume that you are of a lower intelligence because you are an ESL student, individuals may also carry an inherent bias as well. This means that they will not treat you with the respect or equality that you deserve because of an ignorant belief that your status as an ESL learner makes you inferior in some way to them.
Of course, this is not true with most Canadians and certainly not true for the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. Most of us here in Canada are very open minded.
When you encounter a biased Canadian, it is very unfortunate, yet it can and does happen sometimes. We here at Dreams of Canada believe that of course you should embrace your own culture, but we also think that if you don’t speak English fluently, you run more of a risk of encountering these biases. And so, it is worth learning English to the best of your ability, if only because, statistically speaking, it is the most popular language used in Canada.
Problem #5 – People may try to take advantage of you.
This too also falls in line with the theory that individuals will think that you are of lower intelligence because you are an ESL learner. Unfortunately, many people will prey on you and take advantage of this fact under the belief that you will not be able to comprehend and grasp certain concepts. Even if this is not true, the nuance of the English language may allow others to exploit you if you are not clear on what they mean or you are unfamiliar with the laws and customs of a given culture.
For example, there was a recent news report in the United States about the practice of ‘indentured servitude’ that many U.S. employers were instituting by convincing immigrants that they had to work to pay off their citizenship. They also took advantage of the fact that the immigrants were unfamiliar with labor and wage laws by paying them significantly less than what they should have made as well as forcing them to work several hours above a ‘full-time’ week without any overtime pay.
Again, there is no better way to combat this type of awful behavior but to understand English better. If the main language in Canada was Hindu, and most people spoke Hindu, we would be suggesting you learn that language, but that isn’t currently the case here in Canada. Hence, better to learn the main language (English, with French being the second most used language) and learn it sooner than later, so that bad people don’t try to manipulate you.
In conclusion, it is important to identify those that do not have your best interests if you are an ESL learner as these individuals will undoubtedly consider you to be a target. Also, the faster you pick up the language, the less you will have to deal with these people. Canada is a welcoming place, in general, so don’t let a few bad apples spoil the bunch!