September 4, 2010
English language skills trump professional skills for immigrants.
Professional or academic qualifications have less influence on the success of immigrants to Canada than their knowledge of English, according to a report from the University of Toronto by Patricia Landolt and Luin Goldring.I read about this in the local Russian newspaper, here in Vancouver. Why did I buy a Russian newspaper? It is a long story. I was invited to a Chinese breakfast by a small group of recent Chinese immigrants, who are concerned about the tendency of recent Chinese immigrants to feel disenchanted with Canada, not appreciate their new country and still act as if they were living in China. We had a lively discussion for 2 hours and I agreed to address a group of recent immigrants. I will explain that many of these feelings are common to immigrants from all countries, since immigration is a dramatic cultural transition, for many people. Language is usually the key to feeling better about their adopted homeland, and also apparently the key to better employment and integration, according to the study.The restaurant where we had breakfast is owned by a lady from the same home town in China as my wife’s father, in Yanping county, Guangdong. The place could not have been more authentic and we had a great breakfast of “dim sum” and philosophized about the problems of immigrants, and especially Chinese immigrants.As I left the Chinese restaurant and drove away, I noticed a Russian delicatessen. I immediately stopped, parked the car and walked in. I had a great conversation in Russian with the Ukrainian lady behind the counter. I bought some Russian horseradish, Russian bread, kefir, and picked up the free Russian newspaper. I would also have bought some frozen home-made pelmeni dumplings, but I was not going to be home for a few hours. I left that for next time.As I was leaving the Ukrainian lady asked me to help her with an English term she kept hearing. “You bitcha”. I asked her who said that to her. She said that occasionally on leaving some people would say that. “Were they angry?”, I asked. ” No.” She answered. After asking a few more questions I realized that what she had heard was “you betcha”. It took a while to explain that this meant that same as “you can count on it”, or simply “OK”. English can be tricky.
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