Stories and Tips from Two Successful EAL Students

Amelia Pi, Statistics B.Sc. 


I learned English when I was in secondary school in China. Many people have studied English for years with little progress. In many Asian countries, English is taught as a school subject, not as a communication tool. However, I had English communication in mind. I created my own English environment by actively participating in English workshops organized by the local libraries and practicing with like-minded English learners.

Canadian Life

In 2012, I came to Canada for my undergraduate education. I assimilated into Canadian society quickly and made Canadian friends who helped me out along the way. 

I love travelling. Using Google Maps, I became familiar with most areas in Metro Vancouver and the interior of BC. I volunteered at a local museum and at many non-profit organizations.

At school, I took many commerce courses. The commerce program provided an excellent opportunity to write reports and do presentations. I loved doing presentations, taking the stage to share my thoughts with my classmates. Writing takes practice. I began visiting the Student Learning Commons regularly. I got valuable feedback on my writing and helpful tips from the volunteers. I was a private tutor for three years. Calculus, linear algebra and statistics were my main subjects of instruction. My goal was to help students understand math-related subjects better. In addition, I became friends with my students through tutoring.

I enjoy listening to the Canadian English accent and appreciate the beauty of the language rhythm. I am still working on my French and Japanese. For many people, English is a barrier to knowing the world. I deeply feel that language is the key to a culture, which opens up the door to a brand new world.

Tips for Improving Your English

The key thing is to keep your mind open. Do lots of research from online resources. Municipal, provincial, and federal government websites provide plenty of useful information in their newcomers’ guides. Give “Meetups” a try. You may join your interest groups and meet friends. 

Abollah Safari, Statistics Ph.D.

I'm from Iran and came to SFU in 2012 as a grad student in Statistics. My first language is Farsi, which is not similar to English in any way. The best description I can give about my English at the time is BAD! Personally, I like challenges and never give up. On top of that, being in a country like Canada was a fantastic opportunity for me to improve one of my weaknesses.

Fortunately, I had a very supportive and understanding supervisor, Dr. Rachel Altman. She helped me to register in one of the English courses that was offered at the SFU downtown campus (it was a little pricy!). This course not only helped me to improve my English skills, it also helped me to adjust to Canadian culture. I had a good friend who helped as well. Kasra was another grad student at SFU, and we were roommates for a while. Even though we were from the same country and speak Farsi as our first language, he forced me to communicate in English -- even at home! It wasn't fun at all, but very helpful.

In addition, there are so many awesome free services at SFU (mostly at the SFU library as SLC or ELA services) that I used to improve my English skills. For example:

Conversation Partner: A friendly weekly conversation with a native English speaker - must try it!
Conversation Consultation: Useful when you have a quick question
Let's Talk: A good opportunity to participate in a group discussion
Writing Services: So many useful writing workshops and also 1-1 consultations

Now, I'm much more confident and feel more comfortable in English communication, but my English journey is not over yet. I still have a long way to go and am pretty sure there are many other cool things waiting for me along the way!