Nfld. & Labrador

In-person ESL learning returning to Labrador after halting when the pandemic hit

The best way to learn a language is to practise with others in these circles, says one newcomer 

The best way to learn a language is to practise with others, says one newcomer 

Omar Fessaouat is a professional chef who has worked in multiple countries before settling in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L. (Submitted by Omar Fessaouat)

Omar Fessaouat is one of many who are looking forward to English as a Second Language in-person programming resuming in Labrador Tuesday.

The professional chef moved to Labrador in May, and six months later says he still has some English vocabulary words he's learning to help get himself seetled in his new home.

"We are human. Without each other we cannot go forward in our life," Fessaouat said. "So if I have new friends here, new people like it's going to be easier for me to live here."

The programming put on by the Association for New Canadians used to have ESL conversation circles and an eight-week volunteer-run ESL program that started in 2019. All that was halted when the COVID-19 pandemic made it unsafe to meet and practise. 

"We have not been able to see clients face to face for a while. Thankfully, recently, our office has been reopened to include face-to-face meetings," said Misha Liman, regional settlement co-ordiator for the ANC. 

Moving to a new country is difficult and can be isolating, with language barriers and cultural differences, Liman said. Liman knows first-hand the challenges, having moved to Canada from Russia in 2010. She said building rapport and friendships is important and people can learn from each other. 

The conversation circle starts at 5 p.m. AT at the association's headquarters in the Chamber of Commerce Building at 6 Hillcrest Rd., Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and all are invited. People are simply asked to pre-register by emailing or phoning the ANC's office. 

Misha Liman is the regional settlement co-ordinator for the Association for New Canadians. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

"We're hoping to start a lively conversation. Talk about our backgrounds, our cultures. Things that matter to us the most," Liman said. "I'm hoping that our group will grow and attract more volunteer interest as well as participants."

The circle programming is just the start. Liman says they are also working on other gatherings and restarting the eight-week program to help newcomers build their Canadian skills — such as how to use a bank, file taxes and navigate the government system — while improving their English. 

"Navigating the daily challenges of life is something that we really want to help our clients with, and I'm very, very happy to share that we're getting the support from our volunteer base and our community partners to see that happening again in 2021," Liman said.

Language classes help build connections

Fessaouat hopes to build those Canadian connections while learning how to better express himself in English to help his professional career. The Moroccan chef hopes one day to earn a Michelin star from an international restaurant rating guide.

He said having those connections and that support also encourages people like him to stay in the region longer and build their lives, instead of moving away.

"We should build Goose Bay, it's a nice place, we have a lot of opportunity here to do more things," Fessaouat said. "We should just get the opportunity to realize or to put our ideas into reality."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


Heidi Atter

Mobile Journalist

Heidi Atter is a journalist working in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador. She started with CBC Saskatchewan after a successful internship and has a passion for character-driven stories. Heidi moved to Labrador in August 2021. She has worked as a reporter, web writer, associate producer and show director, and has worked in Edmonton, at the Wainwright military base, and in Adazi, Latvia. Story ideas? Email