How do newcomers view Calgary? Find out in our regular segment Through the Eyes of a Newcomer. Looking for tips for your ESL classroom or training for newcomers? Read on...

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Through the Eyes of a Newcomer

by James Edel with Masa

As part of our new series on newcomers, we are asking some of our students and neighbours what their reactions are to Calgary and the surrounding area, how it differs from their first home country and what some of the similarities are.

This month's interview is from James Edel's ELL student, Masa. Masa is originally from Japan and is an international student. We offer our sincere thanks to him for sharing his views on Calgary and Canada with us.

What did you notice when you first came to Canada?
When I first came to Canada, I was a little bit nervous because people are way bigger than me and there are people from different nationality living together.

What have you noticed about how Canadian people act? Canadians are friendly and enjoy talking to people who they do not even know.

What advice would you give someone from your country who is thinking about coming to Canada? I suggest them to have goals they want to achieve during the visit. And it is better hanging out with people from different countries in order to improve English and to know different cultures.

What was your response to the flood? We had a prayer group at church for people suffering from the flood and collected donations.

What do you think of your neighborhood, and grocery store, transit in Calgary? My neighborhood is very quiet. We can buy Asian stuffs at almost any grocery stores. Calgary transit is not so great. They never show up on time and often have some issues.

Some people like the scent of the air, or the view of the mountains. What do you like about Calgary and Alberta? Have you been to Banff? What did you think? I love mountains. The reason I like staying in NW area is I can see mountains from my house. I have been to Banff. Banff is a beautiful place.

How is Calgary different than the city you came from? Calgary is smaller than the city I came from, and there are not many entertainments.

Have you ever felt lonely? How have you dealt with that? I have felt lonely. I went out with my friends trying to be with someone to enjoy my life. Thanks to them, I do not usually feel lonely, and even if I feel lonely, I know I can talk to them and they are willing to help me out.

How has Canada been a place of freedom or opportunity for you? Has it been? In Canada, we are able to speak out our own opinions. I feel we are treated more equally in Canada.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years; how will things have improved? I will be a permanent residence in Canada.

Diminutives and Honorifics: Speaking to Others with Love and Respect

by Dr. Roswita Dressler

Two aspects where language and culture intertwine are diminutives and honorifics. Diminutives are the ways in which we change a word to indicate that it is smaller, younger or more familiar. Honorifics are ways in which we honor people by showing respect through our words. In our first language, we are taught by our parents and our society how to do both. When we learn a second language, we discover that there are different ways to do both, based on both culture and language. Our students encounter these differences between their home culture and English. As ESL teachers, we can begin to give them a glimpse into the how and why of what we do.

Let’s take diminutives as our first example. A young man may be called Johnny and decide when he is older that that sounds childish, asking people to call him John. Yet, he may still be flattered when his mother calls him Johnny. This demonstrates how diminutives work. In English, we can take many names and add “y” (or double the consonant and add “y”) and John becomes “little John”. The person himself may no longer be small, but the term still works because it is also familiar or loving. Other languages do the same: German adds –chen or – (e)le and Karl becomes Karlchen and Hanna becomes Hannele. In French –ette can turn Ann into Annette. It is common for diminutives to be different for men than for women and some people are named a diminutive form from birth (e.g., Lynnette, Jeannette, Jerry). An interesting activity in an ESL class would be to find out how diminutives are created in the home languages of your students and have them share whether their names can be changed. They might have noticed attempts by English speakers to do the same with their name. My father, Reinhold, encountered many Canadians who tried out “Reiny” on him. This discussion may clear up previous misunderstandings about diminutives and their uses.

Honorifics fits into this discussion as well. It is intimidating to be in a new culture and be uncertain as to whether you are showing the appropriate degree of respect. In English we do this through titles (eg.., Rev., Dr., Mr., Mrs., Ms.) and the addition of “sir” or “madam” to our sentences (e.g., “Excuse me sir, can you explain to me how I fill out this form?). In other languages, respect can be conveyed through the choice of pronoun or form of verb. Languages such as Chinese, Japanese and Korean have very developed systems of honorifics. These are also changing systems, so speakers may return to their country of origin only to discover that their notion of honorifics has changed in the years of their absence. Older Canadians can attest to the same phenomenon. A visit to the doctor used to involve being addressed as Mrs. Smith by Dr. Doe and now may involve as discussion between Betty and her doctor Bob. What to expect and how to negotiate these sometimes delicate situations are all aspects of Canadian culture that make for interesting discussions in our ESL classes. 

I encourage you to work either of these two discussions into your ESL classes. The interconnections between language and culture are not always obvious to us or our students. When we are open to discussing them, we save our students future embarrassment or confusion. At the very least we can teach them the phrases needed to negotiate potential culture clashes.


Donations are down during summer months, which makes it difficult to meet our regular monthly expenses. If you would like to make a donation, it would be much appreciated. Thank you! Click here to donate.

Partner with Us!

Community Partnership is open to any Church, Corporate Donor, Community or Not-for-Profit Organization wishing to partner financially with CESLM because of a mutual desire to reach out in love to immigrants and internationals in our communities.
Benefits of Community Partnerships, in effect for one calendar year after donation, are:
  • Special rates on registration fees for CESLM Training Events. 
  • Your church or organization will be identified as a Community Partner on our website and in our Annual Report.
  • Your church or organization will receive a copy of our electronic newsletter.
  • Your ESL Program will be listed in our on-line Directory.
  • Volunteers from Community Partner churches and organizations will have access to our lending library.

For more information about Community Partnerships, please contact


Blog coming soon!


Cooperative ESL Ministries
PO Box 65172 North Hill
Calgary, AB T2N 4T6

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Training Program

Who should apply? Immigrants who are unemployed and have been in Canada for no more than 10 years; are interested in pursuing employment in the machining/millwright trades; are ready willing and able to commit to completing the training and looking for work in the field of training.

Training Components: 
  • Essential Skills Training and Employment Preparations - 10 weeks
  • SAIT Occupational Skills Training - 14 weeks
  • Work Experience - 6 weeks
Information Sessions & Assessments:
  • July 23, 2014
    at 9:00 a.m.
  • August 19, 2014
    at 1:00 p.m.
  • September 12, 2014
    at 8:30 a.m.
  • September 26, 2014
    at 1:00 p.m.

Training begins October 2014

For more information, contact 403-290-5191 or

Annual General Meeting

Cooperative ESL Ministries Annual General Meeting will take place on Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. at Encompass Partnerships 3851 - 54 Avenue NE.

Intercultural Communication Workshop

Saturday, October 25th, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Encompass Partnerships 3851 - 54 Avenue NE. Please contact for more details
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