English: TOEFL Class Plays Matchmaker

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By Adaline Scheerder

When Miaojun Huang, a Mechanical Engineering graduate from China, decided to improve her English by taking a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) course at the Aldebrain Centre, she never guessed that it would lead to a marriage partner!

Miaojun met and fell in love with fellow student Mustapha Jaber from Palestine and the two got married in 2003. Both succeeded in the TOEFL and now Miaojun is a Teaching and Research Assistant finishing her Master’s degree in Computer Science at the University of Ottawa while Mustapha is completing his Computer Science Engineering degree at Carleton University.

The TOEFL Program at Aldebrain Centre is one of many run by the Toronto Catholic District School Board and it attracts new Canadians from many different countries. A large number of these are experienced professionals such as doctors, teachers, engineers and pharmacists who are seeking recognition for their qualifications. Others attend the course to gain admission to Canadian universities or to upgrade their language skills after finishing LINC or ESL courses.

The course provides instruction in all language skills needed for the TOEFL: listening, structure (grammar), reading, and writing. Emphasis is placed on the integration of skills, for example, reading and writing, or grammar and writing. TOEFL courses for 2005 will include a speaking component to prepare students for the next generation TOEFL test.

The curriculum is naturally TOEFL-based but teachers also incorporate in their lessons newspaper and magazine articles, radio and TV news broadcasts, documentaries, short stories and poems. Guest speakers are invited from time to time, to lecture on a variety of topics.

Apart from the classroom instruction, students also benefit from regular field trips to places like The Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, The Ontario Science Centre and the Provincial Parliament at Queen’s Park. They learn more about their new country at the same time that they are learning English.

“The TOEFL course was a great help in my reading and listening skills,” said Aniamma Thomas from India, who obtained her nursing licence in January 2004 and who now works in chronic care at Bridgepoint Hospital. “I feel more confident in dealing with patients and with my colleagues.”

Adds Miaojun Huang, “Like most students from China, when I first came to Canada, I had fairly good grammar and reading skills but I needed to improve my listening. I think the TOEFL course helped me a lot.”

Dr. Ranjini Mahendrarajah, a Sri Lankan physician with more than 10 years’ experience agrees. “All my English skills increased because of the TOEFL course. I’ve just completed my licensing exams and to do that, you need to be able to understand academic English, which is full of complex sentences. I think my writing is much better now than it used to be.”

The Toronto Catholic District School Board’s Continuing Education Department runs TOEFL courses at 16 centres throughout the GTA and two centers also offer TWE (Test of Written English) classes for the TOEFL. For more information on TOEFL or LINC classes, visit their website at www.tcdsb.org/adulted or call Julia Chemali at (416) 397-6446 or Eileen Paulsen at (416) 397-6211.

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