Metro Vancouver immigrant group promotes integration through public speaking

December 18, 2015

By Chuck Chiang, Vancouver Sun |

Liu Ying does not have to imagine the plight of new immigrants landing in Metro Vancouver without any knowledge of English. Liu, who emigrated from China five years ago with her family, has lived that experience.

“Everything was a challenge,” said Liu, recounting not being able to do the simplest things, such as asking where to buy groceries in their new Richmond neighbourhood. “Even something basic, like finding a place to eat, was difficult. We felt very helpless … and I thought, ‘If I can share my experiences with other newcomers, to help them adapt to their new home, that’s how I can contribute.’”

Liu now resides in White Rock, and along with a small group of other Chinese-Canadians, founded the non-profit Chinese Village Club in South Surrey earlier this year. The goal of the group is simple: to help Chinese immigrants adapt to Canadian society, with understanding English a primary goal.

The club currently runs ESL classes for children and adults, and receives all of its funding through its network of 7,000 followers (mostly parents and students) throughout the Lower Mainland. The club also encourages Chinese-Canadian youth to use English in public-speaking situations, to help their integration into the community.

“I think the language barrier is a big reason the (new immigrant) community is seen as a separate group where members only interact with each other,” said Liu, who is president of the Chinese Village Club. “English is the official language here. We see in Surrey how well-integrated the South-Asian community is … while still maintaining their distinct traditions, and I think the ability to communicate plays a big part.”

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