Raise-a-Reader: Conversation circles for those learning English are social lifelines for newcomers, even online


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“Mrs. Andrea Krombein is the best teacher I’ve ever had,” she said.

Rajcan always looks forward to the weekly gatherings, during which the 25 or so participants would break out into subgroups to discuss different topics.

“One time the teacher gave us one word — obstacle — physical or psychological and we had to discuss it,” she said. “We improve our English that way.

“Why I appreciate her so much, she is trying to involve all people that are present.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic the conversation circles have moved online.

“Zoom is excellent because we can follow the program as if we were in Vancouver,” she said, adding there were participants from as far away as Brazil who attended. “It is my social life.”

Rajcan, who has a PhD and worked and taught as an agriculture engineer, said she appreciates the opportunity to improve her English, which she spoke decades ago, and to keep mentally active.

“I would like some exercises for my brain,” she said, relating a story about an elderly friend who recently passed away. “She wanted to keep busy and not just be thinking about dying.”

VANCOUVER, September 9, 2020 - Lena Zelenchuk who moved here last year and is hoping to improve her language and enrolling in a hospitality courseduring the Covid-19 pandemic in Vancouver, BC., on September 8, 2020. (NICK PROCAYLO/PNG) 00062404A ORG XMIT: 00062404A [PNG Merlin Archive]
Lena Zelenchuk emigrated to Canada from the Ukraine and is grateful to the conversation circles for helping her with her English skills. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG

Lena Zelenchuk, 34, is another regular at the conversation circles who is grateful to have found the drop-in gatherings when she and her husband moved to Vancouver from Ukraine last fall, just before COVID struck.

“From March, we have been online and at the beginning it was a little unusual,” Zelenchuk said. “But now I think we even found some positive aspects to it.”

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