originally published May/June 2011
I always tell myself:
“You are never too old to learn. Industry is the parent of success.
You never know what you can do until you try.”
Can you imagine a senior who is 74 years old learning English from Zero? How could I learn English at my age?
This is a true story about me.
After I finished my university courses, I got a master’s degree in China when I was 24. I didn’t learn English in China as a second language. (I learned Russian instead).When I came to Canada, I couldn’t read a word in English. I felt like a blind person. I couldn’t understand what people said. I felt like a deaf person. Also, I didn’t know how to describe things or express my opinions to others. I felt like a mute. I always just nodded and smiled.
I had to depend on my daughter for everything, for example, grocery shopping, making an appointment, describing my symptoms to the doctor or expressing at problem I had. It was difficult to answer the telephone too. I was really in hot water. How could I live in Canada and enjoy my life? I realized that I had to learn English as much as I could.
First, I took English courses step by step. From October 1999 to August 2001, I studied in the LINC program at Centennial College from Level 1 to Level 5. Every day, I got up early. After I sent my granddaughter to school, I caught the bus to my class so as to be punctual. In class I listened to the teacher attentively and took detailed notes. I did lots of exercises and tried to memorize new words as well. After class, I picked up my granddaughter from school and went home. Then I cleaned the rooms in my home and cooked dinner. At night, after doing some chores, I always reviewed my lessons completely, and finished my homework on my own until midnight.
I was crazy about learning English
In addition, I usually borrowed some English books from the library and read them on the weekend. I was always in a hurry and as busy as a bee. I was crazy about learning English, I hardly went out or visited friends. I spent all my spare time studying. Therefore, I passed every test at each level without difficulty, and finished all the LINC classes. Consequently, I got three special certificates for an excellent record of attendance and punctuality (Only one student could got this award in each class).
Second, I registered in the ESL program at Overland, where I have been studying since December 2007. I returned to level 3 – 4, 4 – 5, and 5 – 6, and now this is my first time in level 7 – 8.
I believe every little effort helps
I am the oldest student in all my English classes. Indeed, as a senior, learning is more difficult than for younger people. Not only is it hard to remember, it is also easy to forget. So I have to work hard. I have been keeping all the class hand-outs and reviewing them once in a while. I usually use some new words in sentences, and then use them to make some stories to help me to remember. I have also written lots of letters or E-mails in English to my teachers and friends. They also corrected my mistakes. This way has encouraged me to practice more to improve my English. I believe every little effort helpes. I am never tired of studying English every day.
I am an industrious student. Besides reading and writing, I have also taken a conversation class. I had a good group, which was friendly and co-operative. We respected and helped each other. We always practiced lots of dialogues and listened to many tapes.
I have greatly appreciated all of my teachers. They have used a variety of approaches to help students to learn English; for example, pictures to illustrate things with easy body language and other examples to explain clearly and concise explanation on the board. They have always responded to our questions patiently and precisely. Their teaching styles have made a deep impression on me. I also admire that they are knowledgeable and experienced. The classes have been filled with excitement. I have been fortunate learning English with them and have made more progress than ever before.
I still don't have enough skill in English
Nonetheless, I still don’t have enough skill in English. For example, I can’t speak fluently and coherently. I have problems with pronouncing some names of things clearly. I can’t speak without unnatural hesitation. I am deficient in vocabulary, I can’t fully understand the answer machine, and I can’t fill out some medical examination forms. My range of grammar is limited. I find a lot of verbs confusing and I make many spelling mistakes. As such, I have not progressed as smoothly as I expected.
Considering all the above, I think English is a skill. It needs time to develop. Making conversation with others is an effective way to improve. I always tell myself: “You are never too old to learn. Industry is the parent of success. You never know what you can do until you try.”
Editor’s Note: Only a little editing was needed on this article. It is truly amazing that a woman in her seventies was able to learn English from scratch to the point that she could write this article.