A photo of the English Language Support room in SLS

The Fundamental Value of Language

by guest blogger Kirsten Gaikwad, English Language Support Facilitator, Ryerson Student Learning Support

Close your eyes. In your mind, try to relive your day, from the time you woke up until the present moment. Now, try to do that once again – however, this time, I want you to imagine your day without spoken or written language. I think it’s safe to say that your day would be pretty challenging, am I right? That’s because language, particularly effective communication, is fundamental to all aspects of social life (yes, that includes school, work, and everything in between!).

Well, this is where English Language Support (ELS) comes in. ELS, in Student Learning Support, provides programs to students who use English as an additional language, and gives them the tools and language skills needed for both academic and daily life. Our staff understand that life can be hard enough without language barriers, and we work to help students eliminate these barriers and reach their full potential.

Every day brings about new and exciting challenges at ELS, but there are a few experiences with students that have left a lasting impression on me. One of them involved an exchange student from China. He was only in Canada for a few months, but did everything he possibly could to improve his English in that short amount of time. He scheduled one-on-one writing and speaking appointments each week, and attended conversation group sessions without fail. Needless to say, our staff quickly became accustomed to seeing him within the ELS space. Furthermore, when he was unsure of anything – the proper usage of certain words, phrases, and so forth, he made it a point to clarify them with me, and ensure that he, too, would be able to use and understand them. I was amazed at his hard work and dedication to learning, and was overjoyed to hear of his successes upon his return home. I have remained in touch with him and many other students who have benefited from – and made their mark on – our space in the “Garden” at the SLC, and I am grateful to have had the chance to be a part of their journeys.

One of the incredible things about working at ELS is having the opportunity to understand the seemingly simple but truthfully complex concept of learning. As an ELS Language Facilitator, I have learned a great deal about the ways in which knowledge is attained. What I have found particularly interesting is that each ELS participant who comes in has a unique style of learning and understanding. Some of us learn through verbal explanations of language rules, some of us learn through continuous practice, and still others learn through a blend of several strategies. Not only do participants’ varying learning styles make for new and exciting experiences during each appointment, they also speak to the impressive diversity of the student body at Ryerson.

I have come to realize that language is the fundamental means to almost all ends, and that without the ability to communicate, and do so effectively, an individual faces infinite limitations. However, with language and the skills that come with it, these limitations can be transformed into opportunities. As a student staff member at ELS, I have seen, first-hand, the tremendous impact ELS programming has had on the lives of so many Ryerson students. As language skills improve, students feel more confident in their abilities, and are able to connect more with the broader Ryerson community.