I often get questioned by Chinese parents about whether they should send their kids to Canada for high school or for University, and you can tell that the major problem they worry about is English. For someone that has been in Canada since grade 4, I have a decent answer for them.
My opinion is “the earlier the better”, since it is much easier to learn languages at earlier ages. The other factor is that there are enough international students in Universities to the point that you don’t even need English.
High school English for me was filled with essays, reports, presentations, Shakespear, and falling asleep, not one of those classes that people would look forward to everyday, and so, my attendance wasn’t the best either. To not make it sound too horrible, I liked it slightly more than French.
Grade 9 through 11 for me was just reading after reading, books after books. The only part that was interesting was watching movies, and yet the teacher always skips or fast-forwards the “good parts”. In grade 12, I became friends with a swarm of international students from China. I hanged out with them to the point that the teacher thought I was one of them.
On the first day of class, my English teacher asked if I wanted double-time for in-class essays and tests. I must be high when I replied with an over-confident “naah I’m good”. The semester passed by in a breeze just like any other; Hamlet; Madman; Reading circles; and last but not least, more ESSAYS.
One thing I’ve noticed is that they don’t teach you grammar in the curriculum. All English classes in high school, if I haven’t stressed enough, are just readings after readings. Especially reading between the lines to find details that the original author probably didn’t even intend to have.
Just when I thought I am finally released from English classes in University, I got accepted by the University of Waterloo. Since English is rarely used in the faculty of Mathematics, they force us to take either a communications course or the English proficiency test. I immediately chose the English course after my cousin told me he failed the test three times.
I tried to take the easy way out by choosing ESL102R, where I found myself being the only person in the class who has been in Canada for more than 2 months. Even worse, it is no longer accepted as a communication course when I switched into Computer Science with Business Options.
So here I am taking ENG 119…
Nonetheless, ESL102 was a pleasant experience for me. In fact, it was the only course I’ve taken so far that taught grammar and sentence structure. Although I hated the fact that attendance was required since it was such a small class.
Back to our topic, it is possible to get by University and still not be able to communicate fluently with others. But I’m sure that’s not what most parents expect of their child, at least not Asian parents. So here’s my solution to the question…
Establish a steady foundation in your home country, and I think finishing middle school is more than enough to achieve that purpose. If circumstances allow; time, money etc. attend high school in Canada not only to learn English, but also to be familiar with the environment. So that when the time comes for University, your child won’t struggle to ask where the washroom is.