Website Challenges

As several of you have noticed, our website has been experiencing some challenges in the past couple of weeks. Someone has hacked into the site and a regenerating code string has been causing some cosmetic issues. When it happens, the site becomes a blank white page with a series of boxes that say 'print'. One way to get around it is to call up the site without the www in front of it (just type in, then you will be able to view the site despite the boxes (scroll down, if necessary, and you'll see the site). The boxes will remain at the very top, but they will not obstruct the page. While the boxes are annoying, the overall function of the site is not impeded and registration etc. can still be done on the site.

Our Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Janelle Baldwin, has been working with our host to resolve this issue. Generally, she is able to stay on top of the site and promptly remove the offending code, however, occasionally it gets past her. Should you notice that the boxes are on the site, please email Janelle at and let her know, so she can deal with the issue quickly and get the site view back to normal. Thank you for your help and patience in this matter.

Spring Training—April 26, 2014

Looking for a great way to receive professional development for your ESL teaching team? Join us for Spring Training on Saturday, April 26, 2014. This year's theme is Beyond the Welcome: Building Relationships with Newcomers. Our plenary speaker is Dr. Carolyn Kristjansson, Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics at Trinity Western University in BC.

In addition to the Plenary speaker, we offer two tracks: one specifically on ESL skills, and one on the wider issues of acculturation, family, workplace preparation and/or community resources.


Plenary Session: Dr. Carolyn Kristjansson
"We Do More Than Teach English": Considering What Matters In Church-Sponsored ESL

Track A:

1. Reaching the World at our Doorstep—Wanda Ho and John Kivell

2. Relationships in the Round—Bud Fuchs

3. A Biblical Perspective for Volunteer Ministry—Shannon Irwin

Track B:

1. Learning Through Stations: It Isn't Just for Kindergarten—Dr. Roswita Dressler

2. Language Learning That's Simply Challenging—Dr. Carolyn Kristjansson

3. A Strategic Approach to Teaching Pronunciation—Silvia Rossi

Attendants may select a single track or select from each. If you know which workshops you would like to attend, you may say so in the comments section of the registration form. For complete information about the workshops and to register, please see our website

At A Glance:

Spring Training 2014—Beyond the Welcome: Building Relationships with Newcomers

Saturday, April 26, 2014

9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. (Doors open at 8:30)

Southwood United Church (10690 Elbow Drive SW, Calgary)

To Register, Click Here

Q & A: Dr. Carolyn Kristjansson

(Plenary speaker at Spring Training 2014)

by James Edel

Q: I know you have been a professor at Trinity Western University for some time.  What excites you about your job of teaching teachers how to be better in the field of ESL?

A:  For me, one of the most exciting things about teaching is that I’m always learning something new!  It’s also very rewarding to know that by investing in teachers, I’m contributing to the language learning experience—and lives—of the students they will help.  

Q: Do you speak any other languages and how well?

A: When I was a girl, my family lived in Brazil for a number of years and I learned to speak Portuguese as well as Brazilian through children and youth my age.  Unfortunately, I haven’t consistently used the language since I moved away so my abilities are very rusty (to put it mildly!).  On the other hand, my husband is Icelandic and we lived in Iceland for over a decade.  Our children were also born there and learned to speak Icelandic as their first language.  That is still the language that we usually speak at home.  I’ve done public speaking in Icelandic and have been told I sound like a Western Icelander, although my level of fluency depends somewhat on the topic of discussion.  After almost 20 years of living in Canada, I’m starting to get a tiny bit rusty there too.   

Q: Why is it so difficult to learn English?

A: That’s a tough question because what is “difficult” depend on the background of the person who is learning the language.  I think part of the challenge is that language learning involves much more than gaining control over things like grammar and vocabulary.  Effective language use depends on the social and cultural context, the relationships between people, the purpose of interaction, the shared values (or not) that inform that interaction, and so forth.  These are things that are really only effectively learned by participating in a community and using the language for meaningful communication with fluent speakers of the language in a given context.  Research has shown that this is one of the challenges facing newcomers to Canada—lack of access to and meaningful interpersonal interaction with established community members. It’s also an area where church-sponsored programs can and do make a difference.  

Q: Do you think church ESL programs and ministries to newcomers are important and why?

A: Absolutely!! They are an integral part of the Canadian milieu and have been making a difference in the lives of newcomers to this part of the world since before Canada was fully formed as a nation (more on that in my talk on April 26th).

Dr. Carolyn Kristjánsson is Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics at Trinity Western University in BC where she teaches in the resident and online MA TESOL programs.  She has experienced international relocation and language learning as both a child and adult and has taught in various types of English language programs in ESL and EFL contexts. Her publications include research on identity and interpersonal dynamics in church-sponsored ESL and online graduate education in TESOL.  She loves to connect with students and program providers in church-sponsored ESL programs. 

Calgary: Through the Eyes of a Newcomer

James Edel with Raylene

As part of our series on newcomers, we are asking some of our students and neighbours what their reactions are to Calgary and the surrounding area, how it differs from their first home country and what some of the similarities are.

This month's interview is from James Edel's ELL student, Raylene. Raylene is originally from China. We offer our sincere thanks to her for sharing her views on Calgary and Canada with us.

What did you notice when you first came to Canada?
Residences are beautiful houses with all kinds of design styles. Only at Downtown, you can see more high-rise building.

What have you noticed about how Canadian people act?

People will say hello when they meet on the street, they also say thanks to driver when they get off the bus. Most people like wear headphones. 

What advice would you give someone from your country who is thinking about coming to Canada?
Canada has fresh air and clear water and nice people, but it is not more lively like China, so if you want to come here, you need to enjoy alone and speak good English and keep healthy.

What was your response to the flood?
To rent a room, not choose basement, to buy a house away the downtown.

What do you think of your neighbourhood, and grocery store, transit in Calgary?
Neighbourhood likes to say hello when they meet, but after that, no more talking. You can find all kinds of food which come from the world at the grocery store. Transit runs by schedule, but bus doesn't report stop where it arrives, so you must keep watch on your route, no more sleeping on bus.

Some people like the scent of the air, or the view of the mountains.  What do you like about Calgary and Alberta?  Have you been to Banff?  What did you think?
I like the original nature view, there's a beautiful lake within the city. I been to Banff three times.

How is Calgary different than the city you came from?
Each house has a furnace to support indoor temperature. In my city, one management company supports one or more building's temperature. Calgary's weather is not regular, and long winter, short summer.

Have you ever felt lonely? How have you dealt with that?
Yes, I felt very lonely after I came Canada, so I kept learning to kill time, like learning English, job skills. I want to make more money, then go back China, stay a little long time with families.

How has Canada been a place of freedom or opportunity for you?  Has it been?
You can make a complaint when you are satisfied with something. To make friends with people come from the world. To taste good food come from each country.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years; how will things have improved?
I will stay in Calgary for five years, because here I have more chance to catch a job. I will speak English well and drive a car.

(James Edel currently teaches ESL at Columbia College in Calgary and attends Northside Bible Fellowship)


by Dr. Roswita Dressler

“Excuse me madam, did you realize you were speeding?”

“I am sorry, Officer. I didn’t see the speed limit change”.

“Ma’am, this is a school zone and over there is the school. This is a safety issue”.

“I apologize, sir. I won’t do it again”

I hope that few of you have been pulled over for speeding, but even if you haven’t, you could probably imagine a dialogue similar to this between a police officer and the driver he pulled over. I like to use this example when making comparisons between English and other languages with regards to the use of a formal form of address. Some English speakers claim that English has no formal form and grammatically speaking they are right. Other languages such as French and German have two different forms of “you” when addressing one person: you – familiar and you – formal (tu and vous in French and du and Sie in German) and verbs to go with them. Korean has seven different speech levels to indicate the degree of formality. For second language speakers, the differences between these can seem subtle and difficult to learn. Mistakes can cause embarrassment or misunderstanding. As ESL teachers, we want our students to understand when and how to be formal in English.

There are many ways that a language can indicate formality. They may tack on a different verb ending, add additional words to a sentence or change the way they pronounce words. What have your students noticed about formality in English and what can you add to their knowledge?

Let’s look at that scenario again.

“Excuse me (asking permission when he doesn’t have to) madam (the use of sir/madam), did you realize you were speeding? (a question instead of a statement)”

“I am sorry, (an apology) Officer (the title of the person you are talking to). I didn’t (even more formal: did not) see the speed limit change” (an explanation or excuse).

“Ma’am, this is a school zone and over there is the school. This is a safety issue” (imagine a calm, serious tone).

“I apologize, sir (another apology). I won’t do it again (a promise to reform, with the hope of avoiding a ticket?, but not directly requesting that)”

Even though English does not have special verb forms, there are ways to show formality such using sir/madam; addressing the person by their job title; asking a question instead of making a statement and implying what you want instead of asking directly. For students who are accustomed to more direct ways of speaking formally (e.g., changing the verb), these ways may seem less straightforward. However, through noticing, awareness and practice, they can improve in their sense of when and how to apply this knowledge.

Ideas for teaching:

  • Start where your students are at– Begin by asking students how formality is marked in their home language. Is it easy to know when to use different forms of address or are their situations where you are not sure which one to use. Now think about English. What have they noticed about formality? They may report that they feel English speakers are very informal. Share with them the above scenario and ask them to pick out which aspects make that a formal interaction.
  • Lists – Create lists of people with whom you would act formally and those with whom you might not. Consider situations in which you might be more formal. Emphasize that it is possible to show respect without showing formality.
  • Apply your knowledge – come up with a few more dialogues like the one above and have the students guess who is speaking and consider what level of formality is being expressed.
  • Practice – have students write or act out their own scenarios. You can take the list of people and situations you created and assign them to students as the basis of a scenario. What problem might occur that these two people in this scenario need to resolve? How can your language choices influence how formal your dialogue sounds?

Dr. Roswita Dressler is a former German, French and ESL teacher who works at the University of Calgary teaching future second language teachers. She volunteers in her church’s ESL program, run twice a year for six weeks. She and her husband have four children.

This 'n' That

Kairos Intensive Course - Ambrose University College

Today mission is happening both overseas and on your own street in Calgary!  Learn more about mission - the Biblical basis, the historical background, cultural awareness, effective strategies - and prepare to be deeply challenged personally and also in terms of existing paradigms of church life and denominational thinking.

Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m., April 28 - May 2nd, 2014
Ambrose University College, 150 Ambrose Circle SW
Cost: $150
Register: Click here

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