A new life and language

By Jason Ginter

April 11, 2017

Alaso Aden moved to P.E.I. on April 21, 2011.

At the time, she did not speak English, nor did her husband or their six children.

From Kenya, Aden was forced to immigrate to Canada to escape the harsh reality of her life in a refugee camp.

She wanted a better upbringing for her children.

It’s been six years now, and Aden speaks and understands English to a moderate degree. She still speaks Somali with her family at home.

Aden’s oldest son plays soccer in Stratford.

She is enrolled in the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program offered by Holland College.

Aden attends classes starting in September like most courses. The classes end in early June.

Each student is placed at a level from 1-8, indicating their strengths or weaknesses in certain areas of the language.

Aden has found beauty in the snow of P.E.I., she said.

“I’d never seen or felt snow up close. Only seen it on the mountain.”

The mountain she refers to is Mount Kenya, from her home country.

Aden hopes to get a job once she is finished with the LINC program, she said.

“I will hopefully find work as a housekeeper at first, then maybe after as a cashier.”

While coming to P.E.I. was a blessing for her children, Aden does regret leaving other members of her family, she said.

“I miss my family, the people still in Kenya.”

Aden is just one of many immigrants struggling to make a new life in P.E.I. She sometimes has issues talking to people, said Aden.

“It’s nice, but it’s sometimes difficult to communicate.”

Another immigrant taking the LINC program is Psulmaya Darzew.

Darzew is from Bhutan. She came to P.E.I. with her family in 2012.

The program has been very helpful to her, Darzew said.

“I did not understand any English before I started classes here.”

Darzew has a family of five here in P.E.I. She left behind her brother-in-law.

She is in level 2 of the program, Darzew said.

“I’m a level above my husband.”

Darzew plans to focus on her family once she is done with the program.

“I’ll stay at home with my children and take care of them.”

She likes it here on P.E.I.

“It’s a little cold, but I don’t mind much.”

Barbara Harris is their instructor in the LINC program. She has watched the students’ progress.

“It’s really amazing how quickly some of them pick up the language,” she said.

This isn’t true for all though, said Harris.

“For some, it can go a year a level, for others it can go at different rates. It’s an individual process.”

This can be attributed to education level, said Harris.

“Some have had previous education, others have had none.”

For Harris, it’s all about the people.

“I love it. Even though I’ve been teaching the same level for years, it always put’s a new outlook on things.”

Harris has been a LINC instructor for nine years.

Tracey Gallagher knows several people that have graduated from the program. As residence manager to Glendenning Hall, she also comes into contact with many international students.

“Quite a few of the Glendenning Hall residence speak English as a second language. Hearing them speak, compared to graduates of the LINC program, there’s often only a small difference.”

The LINC program is definitely showing results, Gallagher said.

“You can see newcomers going from barely understanding the language to being able to hold conversations in English.”

After completing the LINC program, newcomers can pursue post-secondary education. The program currently has students originating from China, Syria and Nepal, among others.