When English student Sakura joined E-QIP’s full-time program late last year, she was almost a complete beginner; although she’d learned some vocabulary and grammar in school, she found it nearly impossible to hold any sort of conversation in English.
Eight months later, most of the conversations she has on a daily basis—with the many friends she’s made from around the world through E-QIP, with the locals she encounters in the city, with customers at the restaurant where she waits tables—are in English (clear, complex English at that). She can easily call herself a fluent English speaker, and in gaining a new language, she’s discovered that she has a lot to say.
“After I came here, I became more talkative [in general]. I try to have my opinion and I try to share my opinion,” she says. “People here are good at talking.”
She’s been happy to learn in an environment where she’s been forced to speak English with both native and non-native speakers, and where she can’t fall back on a large Japanese community like she might have found in Toronto or Vancouver. Sakura has family south of the border in Chicago, but decided against spending her year abroad in the Windy City so as to avoid spending her free time chatting in Japanese with her aunt and cousin—a brave choice for someone who once found talking to strangers difficult in any language.
“I used to be really shy and I couldn’t talk,” she says, even to other Japanese students or staff members. “I was less interested in people. Now I’m more interested in people.”
Sakura chose E-QIP at the recommendation of her study abroad agent, who told her about the school’s small class sizes—a desirable feature for her.
“When I came here, the first day, the class size was only three or four students, so it was easier to have conversations with students or teachers. At first, I didn’t understand anything, but it was easy to get used to.”
Now that she’s found her voice, Sakura enjoys meeting new people from all around the world.
“In Japan, I would see almost only Japanese [people]. Here, I see many people from other countries,” she says. “It’s really diverse.”
That’s not the only thing that sets Montreal apart, though; “I’ve never seen this much construction!” she adds.
With one month left in Montreal, there are many things (minus the construction) that Sakura is going to miss about her adopted city. She’s filled her time here with endless new experiences, both within Montreal and within the cities she’s travelled to.
“I walk around a lot,” she says. “When I was in Japan, I hated walking, but because there are many events or stores or museums here, I walk around a lot.”
She’s loved the festivals in Montreal (the Jazz Festival was her favourite) and is looking forward to experiencing Pride/Fierté after experiencing her first Pride festival in Chicago last month.
Now that she’s at such a high level, she’s recently hit the dreaded language learning plateau, but she’s forging ahead. She’s still picking up new vocabulary all the time, and she recently began learning French.
“I don’t even know how to pronounce ‘a, b, c, d’ in French” she says, but she’s not discouraged. Her advice for students of all levels is simple: “It just takes time. Make many mistakes and correct, correct, correct, correct!”