Congratulations to our December Language Contest winner, Sara Yousufi!
This soft-spoken lady started learning with English Online (EO) just last year. What makes her win awe-inspiring is that she is totally new to structured learning. And I don’t mean new to learning online.
Back in her home country, women and girls are not allowed to travel, let alone attend school. So for Sara, learning English is doubly hard. “When you studied your own language, it can help you because you can translate (from your native language to English). But because I don’t know how, I didn’t study reading and writing in my own native language, it is hard for me,” Sara said.
This didn’t stop Sara from participating in the Language Contest. She reviewed the questions and also learned to create an Instagram account just so she could join. “I stay away from social media. Instagram, I make just for this contest. I didn’t have Instagram before,” Sara said.
For all her efforts, our diligent learner is now part of our elite Circle of Champions! Well done, Sara!
I couldn’t believe it when Sara told me that she didn’t go to school. She hesitates saying some words, but she could speak English clearly. She told me that before moving to Canada, she prepared by watching some TV shows.
“I watched some nice cartoons at home. Cartoons can help anybody improve English, grammar, vocabulary, it really works. At that time, I watched Caillou, the children’s cartoon. I also watched some TV series. I didn’t understand at that time, but they were interesting. I love speaking English! My childhood dream is speaking English,” Sara said.
“I love communicating with someone and learning about them. When I tell people that I didn’t go to school, they don’t believe me. I give credit to my online classes because they help me a lot. They help me with speaking, understanding, and with reading too,” she added.
Sara moved to Winnipeg from Afghanistan in 2007. She joined her husband who had been living in here for several years. Going to school was her dream when she came to Canada, but her dream had to wait. When the couple started having children, studies had to take a backseat. Last year, when her third child finally reached school age, she decided it was time. “I thought maybe I should do something for myself. I decided to take my benchmark test and they gave me two online classes,” Sara said.
“I’m lucky to be part of an online class. When I finish my work and have sent my kids to school, I attend. Absolutely, I love it. Some classes I really enjoy especially Citizenship Classes because there are many questions about Canada, history, cities, and so many things! The Reading Club, and Writing Club, I really enjoy. I love learning new things!”
Learning online is a blessing
“Maybe it’s destiny, but I never realized I’d go for online. Now I’m almost on my second year with EO. I thought I’d go to online classes and then later go to an in-person class. But I couldn’t go to (in person) class because school is far from me. I need to take two buses, and in winter time it’s really difficult. I also couldn’t drive because I’m a beginner. I just got my license this year. Maybe when I’m driving better I can go to an in-person class as well. But I won’t quit my online class because it’s working for me,” Sara said.
“I’m lucky to be part of an online class. When I finish my work and have sent my kids to school, I attend. Absolutely, I love it. Some classes I really enjoy especially Citizenship Classes because there are many questions about Canada, history, cities, and so many things! The Reading Club, and Writing Club, I really enjoy. I love learning new things!” she added.
All her hard work and diligence are paying off. Sara shares: “Now I attend my children’s parents-teacher meeting by myself. Before I was waiting for my husband to be with me all the time. And it’s hard for him too, because he has two jobs. He used to take a day off to go to the doctor’s with me. From the beginning, I tried to do everything by myself but I couldn’t because of the language. But I start, slowly, slowly. I work on it,” she said.
“Sometimes I joke that look, I now speak very well, more than you (referring to her husband). He can read and write well. Before he spoke English very well, but at work he doesn’t speak much. If you don’t speak, you forget, Sara said.
The next step for Sara is to continually improve her CLB level so she could apply for citizenship. Beyond getting her citizenship, she said that she might look into getting a job as a teacher’s assistant one day. But she’s just thinking about it, not planning for it at the moment.
“Actually, plans never work for me. When I plan something, always the opposite happens (laughs)! I can plan for tomorrow but not for the future. Because when I decide for the future, it doesn’t work for me. In my opinion, when God plans for you, you go with that. I believe that. You’ll never know what will happen tomorrow,” she said.
So for now she is taking things one step at a time. She is happy to be learning more English, taking care of her kids, and living in Manitoba.
Asked what she liked about living here, she said: “One word. Peaceful. When I said that I had goosebumps. Peaceful, especially for women. Everyone here is not racist. I don’t like that kind of thing where people say my skin colour is this, and you have that. I don’t like to talk about religion, but in my religion, we don’t allow talk like that,” she said.
Sara added, “Winnipeg has peaceful kind of people. You’re not scared about what you want, what you want to do, you have rights. Nobody can take that right from you.”
She has this to say to newcomers to the province: “I know it’s really difficult for newcomers to leave their own country and their family. But everyone should try to be healthy and happy. Keep working hard and never give up!”