Thank you for teaching us Chinese. You are a great professor and we had great fun learning!” That’s one of several compliments that Yukang (Patrick) Peng received on a thank-you card from Chinese-language students at Mount Saint Vincent University this spring. Patrick has been teaching Chinese as a second language to beginner and intermediate students since September 2017, having designed the courses himself. His students include native-born Canadians who want to work or travel in China, as well students from Chinese families wanting to improve their language skills.
Patrick and his wife, Wenjie (Grace) Guo, came to Halifax in 2016, along with their son Yifan (Beta) Peng, now nine. Patrick commends his wife for preparing the initial application. “She opened our family’s door to Canada,” he says. “She made a lot of effort, and gave me great encouragement and support. I am a lucky person.” Life in China was stable as he’d earned his PhD in Chinese Philology, and taught for 10 years in Chinese universities. “But we wanted to change our lives and were looking for immigration opportunities.”
They participated in ISANS’ Settlement Online Pre-Arrival (SOPA) program before leaving home. Once here, they met with an employment specialist, who Patrick says is “like family.” They took workshops on employment strategy, how to look for employment, and how to write a resume and cover letter. “The language is a challenge to me. That workshop provided a lot of information and resources. We learned where and how to apply step by step.”
Patrick also took online courses called Workplace Writing and Clear Speaking, and enrolled in English in the Workplace when he started teaching. “The instructor designed a course especially for me. We worked one-on-one in the library. It helped a lot.” Grace’s proficiency in English was good because of experience in an international company. She once volunteered at Pier 21 and now works full time at an IT company. Shortly after their arrival, the couple bought a convenience store in Bedford that they ran until selling it last year. Operating a business was new to them, so they looked to ISANS for assistance with management and financial issues. “At the beginning, the store provided a living for us. Everything worked smoothly with ISANS help.”
They lived downtown but then bought a house in Bedford, in a diverse neighbourhood with “open-minded” neighbours. Beta is in grade three and doing well after an initial challenge with his English. Patrick says they are impressed with Canada. “We love how Canadians express their feelings with Canada Day events. We were moved.”
Patrick believes he’ll have more teaching opportunities because of Nova Scotia’s relationship with China and because of increasing numbers of Chinese newcomers here. “Their children need to learn their first language.” This summer he looks forward to swimming, basketball and football—and, working on his English. They miss family and friends and returned to China for a visit last summer. And while there, they missed Halifax. “Everything has two sides, like a coin. We love it here.”