ESL: At Home With LINC

You want to improve your English, but you can’t go to school every day. Maybe you have a job. Or a beautiful new baby that you need to stay home and take care of. Then again, maybe you can’t attend because of medical reasons. Or because you live too far from an English school.

Well, you’re not alone. There are many newcomers in such situations. And Ontario’s LINC program is reaching out to help more of them each year.

How? With the increasingly successful LINC Home Study program.

“It’s great!” says Emmy, a make-up artist who came to Canada from China. “I don’t need to go out to school in bad weather. It’s very convenient.”

Emmy is staying home now to take care of her new baby girl. She does LINC homework online when she has a chance – usually three or four times a week.
“It depends on the housework and on my children. Sometimes my daughter says, play with me, play with me!”

Emmy used to attend LINC day classes and evening classes, and she plans to return to school when her children are older. But for now, she says, the Home Study program is an excellent alternative.

The program offers the LINC curriculum for levels 2 to 7. Learners have a choice of two study options:  online (using the Learning Management System) or correspondence (using books and CDs).

In both cases, a learner works through LINC materials, and other study materials, with an experienced TESL-qualified instructor. The instructor guides and corrects the learner’s written work, and speaks with the learner by phone for a half hour each week.

The phone conversations help newcomers build confidence speaking on the phone in English, while improving their listening skills. Because of these and other benefits, many learners find the weekly phone conversations one of the most enjoyable and useful parts of the program.

“I like speaking with my teacher Laurie,” says Seyhi. “She is very helpful. When I have a question, she can give me the answer. She also corrects my pronunciation. We talk about Canadian culture and I tell her about Turkish culture, and we discuss many other topics.”

Seyhi was and is a busy man. The former high school language teacher (in Russia as well as his native Turkey) took a LINC day class and a TOEFL class after he came to Canada. But he couldn’t continue his in-class English studies because he was taking a high school diploma program – and a personal support worker (PSW) program. He now works as a PSW in two part-time jobs, and studies English in his spare time at home.

“Seyhi is very, very nice,” says Laurie. “A pleasure to talk to. I help him with idioms and grammar, a subject he really likes. I also helped him prepare for his citizenship test.”

Laurie has 15 other students as well. “They’re quite an interesting mix,” she notes. “They come from many places including Pakistan, Ethiopia, Columbia, Kazakhstan, and China. Some have been here several years, others just one year.

“I like teaching this way because it helps you get to know students well. Which is a bit ironic, because in this program you don’t meet your students face-toface. But you can really customize the program to meet the learning needs of each student.”

Clearly learners like the special attention they receive. The program began in 1995 with six students. There are now 600.

“More and more newcomers are expressing interest in joining LINC Home Study,” says program coordinator Igor Rosic. “As well, we survey our students on a regular basis and we receive very positive feedback. Learners appreciate the program’s flexibility, our instructors, and the personalized, one-to-one teaching approach.”

For these and other reasons, Igor adds, “The program has grown strongly year by year in both organization and curriculum. In 2007 we revised our learning materials. We developed additional content for LINC Levels 4 and 5, and we launched Levels 6 and 7.
In 2008, we plan and expect to continue to grow.”

Currently the program serves newcomers living in 15 regions throughout Ontario. This includes areas around Toronto – such as Richmond Hill, Vaughan, Thornhill, Markham, and Mississauga (where the program is based, at the Centre for Education & Training) – but it doesn’t include Toronto itself. That may change, however, as the program expands. The LINC Home Study program now has over 30 instructors. As more students register, more instructors (including those living in Toronto) are needed.

“There are a number of attractions to teaching ESL this way,” explains Lily, a teacher with the program since 2000 who also teaches a LINC class with equal enjoyment. “You can be very creative in tailoring the program to your learners. And then there’s the freedom. To a large extent you can decide when you work, and where. You can even do your work with your laptop computer on a dock at the cottage, with the birds and pines and fresh air.”

These advantages, she says, are in addition to the fulfillment you feel helping some remarkable people achieve their learning, career and life goals in a new country.

Hidrom is one of those remarkable people. The TV, radio and newspaper journalist from Eritrea came to Canada in 2004. Soon after immigrating, he found he had another, even bigger, challenge to deal with. “I was going blind. I had glaucoma,” Hidrom recalls. “It was very difficult. I couldn’t communicate in English, find my way around. The Home Study program, and especially my teacher Lily, made things easier. Also, I have a computer that reads aloud so I don’t need to see the screen. I can stay home and learn,

I don’t have to cross roads and wonder who is going to help me.”

Hidrom didn’t let his big challenges stop him. He went on to graduate from LINC Level 5 – and was chosen to be the Home Study valedictorian at a LINC graduation ceremony.

Since then he has moved on to Level 6/7, is working as an interpreter, and intends to once again work as a journalist – but now in Canada, in English.

Students, teachers and anyone else wishing to learn more about the LINC Home Study program can do so online at www.tcet.com/linchomestudy/ or by contacting the Centre for Education & Training at (905) 279-0024 ex. 1257 or toll-free at 1-866-277-5462.

CNM