LINC students in Courtenay currently include immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Syria, Vietnam and Korea. Photo by Scott Strasser.

Immigrant Welcome Centre offers English language classes to newcoming Canadians

The Comox Valley’s Immigrant Welcome Centre (IWC) is once again offering Language Instruction for New-coming Canadians (LINC) classes. The program teaches basic English language skills to recently-arrived immigrants.

LINC classes were previously offered through North Island College, but have taken place at the IWC since April. Current classes, which began on Sept. 5, take place Monday–Friday from 9:30–12:30. The IWC is located on 5th Ave. and England Ave.

The program is funded by provincial and federal governments. It is open to permanent residents and refugee-status individuals with beginner-level English.

LINC instructor and coordinator Marie Irving says her classes focus on three themes: community, education and employment.

“The program helps newcomers integrate into their community. Without language, they’re basically living in a bubble,” she said. “We teach them how to make small talk, go to the grocery store and find what they need, how to get a library card, how to register for a class — all those things that get them out into the community and integrate.”

Irving’s classes in Courtenay are taught in accordance with the Canadian Language Benchmarks levels 0–4. Once students are able to speak English past level 4, (they are assessed regularly) they have to leave the program.

“I really want to get the students out into the community and meeting people, interacting with people,” she said. “I really want to try and help them network so they can feel comfortable and enjoy their lives here.”

Irving is currently teaching 10 students, including newly arrived immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Korea, Vietnam and Syria.

One student this year is 51-year old Daniel Perez, an auto mechanic from Mexico. He came to British Columbia a few years ago to be with his family.

“I like it very much. The teacher is very interesting and she teaches me a lot. Another time I couldn’t speak English, but now it’s more open,” he said.

Another student is Boghos Meanessnin, who came to the Valley from Syria five months ago.

“This class is very good. It makes me happy, school. The teacher is fine. Everyday I come to school, I talk, read. I’m happy to come to Canada,” he said.

Irving said there is new intake of students every month.

The LINC program is also run through the Immigrant Welcome Centre in Campbell River.