September 25, 2020

BY KRIS MANUEL

When Maidelin Cruz and her husband arrived in Canada from Cuba in August 2010 as skills workers, it was to provide a better future for her family in Canada and in Cuba.

But, English was foreign to her.

“I thought I knew some English in my country, but when I came here I realized that I didn’t. I knew some words, some vocabulary, but the English that people speak in my country is very different because we speak with a Spanish accent and we don’t hear the real sounds. When I came here, I didn’t understand what people were saying.”

But, by carefully forming her sentences as she spoke, her English improved.

When she first arrived in Canada, she worked two jobs and had to learn English on her own. She said what really helped her was reading the Bible.

Cruz, 28, is a first-year general business student at Conestoga College.

Before going into the business program, she took a general arts and science English language program for one semester, where she was put in the highest level – level 4.

Then when she transferred to the business program she started using the Learning Common’s writing service.

“Because English is my second language, I realized that I needed more help with my writing skills,” she said.

“I remember my first writing class, I was so scared when my teacher asked us to introduce ourselves. My other classmates spoke very well and I felt very ashamed to speak. I could not express my thoughts very well.”

After receiving her mark back for a test in the introduction to professional writing and presentation skills course, she noticed how low her mark was. She booked appointments with writing services to help her boost her grade.

“When I wrote my first test I got a 55 per cent and I was really disappointed with that. When I started to come (to writing services) my grades were improving and improving; and I finished with an A,” she said.

“From a 55 per cent to an A, that’s a big difference.”

Cruz still uses the writing service and goes once a week to review or do practice exercises to help her to continue to improve her writing skills when writing reports, reflections and presentations for class every week.

“Here, they help me find my own mistakes. They don’t just tell me what I did wrong, they help me understand what I did wrong and it’s easier for me to correct my mistakes,” she said. “It’s a good opportunity to improve your marks.”

Lynn Gresham, writing centre co-ordinator, said the writing service is a place for students to get help with anything related to the writing process, whether it’s help getting started, organizing thoughts, structuring the essay or a paragraph, or documenting sources.

“We can help them if they have any questions about what was explained in class,” said Gresham.

Cruz is thankful for all the encouragement given by her teachers as well as the help from the writing service throughout her time at Conestoga.

“The workers here are very professional and they have very good skills to help people,” she said.