May 4, 2009
This week, we have a story written by Gordon Li, from Regina, Saskatchewan. Gordon is originally from China. He began to learn English when he was 30 years old while holding a full-time job and was self-taught. He is a member of the Saskatchewan Literacy Network (SLN) Learners' Focus Committee and the Board of Directors. Gordon believes he has gained much from his experiences with the SLN and the activities of the committee.
I began to study English when I was in China. English programs were not on TV until years later. One day, there was a piece of paper on one of the desks in the office of my institute that had some English on it. I asked one of the clerks what it was about. She said that the TV station was going to start an English teaching program. She told me that the only TV set the institute had in the meeting room was used for all the students of the institute.
The first class was going to start in a few minutes. I rushed into the meeting room. To my surprise, the big meeting room was full of people. The people at the front of the room sat on the chairs. Behind them, people were standing. Further behind, people were standing on the chairs. At the back of the room, people were standing on the desks. To be fair, I walked to the very back of the room. Seeing me coming, the people on the desk tops moved a little bit so that I could stand among them.
I managed to watch part of the 13 inch black and white TV screen through the gaps of the heads in front of me. When the heads were moving, I had to move my head accordingly so I could get a better view of the TV screen. However, I didn't give up. I knew that half a loaf is better than no bread at all.
At that time, none of my colleagues' families could afford to buy even a small black and white TV set. All of the English students had to share the same one. Everyday, as soon as work was over, I went to the crowded room to take the ESL class before going home.
A few days later the room became less crowded because some students had dropped out. As the days and weeks went on, there were fewer and fewer of us left in the room. Eventually, every one else had dropped out. There was only myself left in the class room. I kept going, even in rainy weather and snowy weather. Finally, I completed the whole course. My English improved a great deal from taking that course.
A few years later, a national English test was set up. I managed to pass the test. The test result showed that my English was good enough to come to Canada. One of the students, who had dropped out of the TV English course, told me that he wouldn't have dropped out of the course if he had known there would be a chance to leave China, but it was too late for him. Opportunity is fair to every one, but belongs only to whoever is ready for it.
[This story was taken with permission, from Learner Journeys, Fall 2008, published by the Saskatchewan Literacy Network (SLN).]