对于我们这种土生土长的温哥华人来说，用众多不成文规则和传统指导我们日常生活和交往是理所应当的 — 例如从经常说抱歉到知道婴儿洗礼是怎么一回事。单独来看，这些东西似乎是微不足道且并不重要的，但是随着这些社会文化相互作用的日积月累，很容易看出，这些微小差异对于将英语作为第二语言的新移民来说是多么难以应付。作为一个成年人，学习如英语一般困难的新语言已经非常不容易，同时还要应对抚养孩子、支撑家庭以及尝试融入与自己的国家有着巨大差异的新生活，就更是难上加难了。
其实我们所有人，无论是本地人还是移民，都只是希望为自己在温哥华建立起一个美好的家园。但是，如果我们各自继续深挖壕沟，就无法取得任何进步。所以，让我们共同努力，共同维护和保护这座我们深爱的美丽城市。这样终会有一天，我们都会站在同一边 — 温哥华的那一边。
Sometimes I feel like I am precariously balancing on the border between two different worlds. On the one side, there is the world of my locally born and raised Vancouverite friends and family who feel desperate about the out of control changes to our hometown. On the other side, there is the world of the many hopeful adult immigrants, the majority from China, that I happily teach English to. In my teaching and writing career, I have always been fascinated to find ways to bridge the language and cultural gap between these two sides. I even wrote a bilingual book on local everyday customs and traditions to help remove barriers to participation for Chinese newcomers. However, a recent incident reminded me that the divide between the two sides is still there and may actually be growing.
At a recent social gathering, there was a heated conversation about a media story on some newcomers from China doing something scandalous in the Vancouver housing market. The discussion then led to other negative stories from the past years featuring Chinese immigrants and alleged money laundering, tax evasion, reckless supercar speeding and so on. While these stories and their impact on Vancouver deeply concern me too, I shared that to be fair to this group of newcomers, these media stories don’t reflect the attitudes and behaviour of the majority. In fact, my own direct personal experiences teaching and tutoring literally hundreds of adult newcomers from China over the last ten years have been pleasant and positive. In fact, I have found that my Chinese students are even more concerned about these stories, because the behavior of these “bad apples” unfairly hurt the reputation of all Chinese newcomers. This was met with a dismissive and angry, “Well, you’re just on their side”. Their side? Wow. Has it really come to choosing sides?
It is so easy for us locally born Vancouverites to take for granted all the many unwritten rules and traditions that govern our daily life and interactions – everything from saying sorry all the time to knowing what kind of party a baby shower is. These seem trivial and unimportant individually but multiply these many sociocultural interactions throughout the day and it is easy to see how the many small differences can become overwhelming to a newcomer using English as a second language. It is not easy to learn a new language as difficult as English as an adult while also coping with raising kids, running a household and trying to settle into a new life that is so different from one’s home country.
Most locals probably don’t know that ESL classes around the city are full to bursting with Chinese newcomers who are very motivated to learn English. The most common questions I hear from these students are: “How can I volunteer?” and “How can I feel confident enough about my English skills to make local friends and talk to my neighbours?”. The biggest question of all: “Will I ever fit in here?”
As one Chinese mother texted me: “I try so many times as I can, but I cannot crawl through. I feel so overwhelmed and blue. I don’t want to be a loser in my inner thinking. Yes, I do very need your help. I really don’t want just always stand outside door of English. English is a beautiful language. Learn more comprehension and widen the thinking. It is my goal!! I need to hang in there”.
When many of my students share information like that, I suppose I can’t help but be moved and sympathetic to “their side”. Most newcomers from China have chosen to live here and are working hard to be fully participating members of the community, but these are not the ones capturing the headlines. I also can’t help but also be on “the side” of locally born Vancouverites who want their communities to continue to be close-knit, friendly and affordable.
All of us, no matter if we were born here or chose to move here, are all just trying to build a good life for ourselves here in Vancouver. However, we are not going to make any progress if we continue to dig deeper into our respective sides. So, let’s work together towards our shared common interest to preserve and protect this wonderful city that we all love. Ultimately, we’re all on the same side – Vancouver’s side.