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Tutoring with Cambly: A fun way to increase your cultural competency


Evelina Silveira

It happened one night when I was fully awake, lying in bed and thinking of a fun job I could do at home.  I wanted it to be something that would complement the work I do in my business.  Generally, when I decided to take on part-time or temporary work, I do it to enhance my skills and knowledge for my training business, Diversity at Work.

I “Googled”  teaching English online without an  ESL certificate and came across, Cambly.  I had looked at other sites before and read their reviews, but I was not interested in having a job that would take a lot of preparation or had a pre-determined schedule.  I needed flexibility to  work on my business.

I completed the quick application form and sent them a video. Within about 10 days I was working.

Cambly is an app which helps English as a Second Language Speakers to practice their conversation skills and learn grammar with tutors from around the world. They choose the number of minutes they want to speak each week and the tutor(s) they want to work with.

Most of the students are from Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Japan, China and Taiwan.  The app is picking up popularity and users from other countries are emerging now as well.  Because I specialize in business English with intermediate and advanced speakers, my students tend to be professionals.  When you complete your profile with Cambly you can specify your areas of interest.  Do you want to work with beginners? Advanced speakers?  Do you want to teach listening skills? Grammar? Students will read your profile and determine whether you are the right fight for them.  If you are, they will click on your profile when you are online and choose you for a lesson.

I was a little nervous on my first call as I had not really figured out the app that well, by this time.  I still remember the first call. It was a man sitting on a carpet wearing traditional Gulf-style clothing; the white long chemise and pants along with the red scarf draping his head.  He was sipping coffee that his servants had brought him.

Since then, I have had over 1000 chats. I have met professors, doctors, tons of IT professionals, teachers, students and retirees. Sometimes, students are calling me from their cars, they are walking, in the middle of a family gathering; or they might be drunk getting out of a bar on a Saturday night!  I laugh all of the time with my students. For nervous students, this helps them relax and they re-book with me because I make learning fun.

At first, I thought I would just do a few hours a week in the evening or on the weekend.  But, before I knew it, the time I had used to  devote to unwinding with surfing social media or watching re-runs of  Grey’s Anatomy was now being taken over by working for Cambly.  Why?  Because it is enjoyable and I have extremely intelligent students who I enjoy interacting. My thirst for learning about other cultures, engaging in political/social  discussions combined with my fascination with linguistics, made this the JOB FOR ME!

You see, most of the time it doesn’t feel like work at all.

Is Cambly for you?

· You need to be a native English speaker.

· You must like to talk and meet people.

· You need to be able to make conversation with people of all different language levels.  (They do offer you conversation starters, if you are stuck).

· You must be happy and smiling in all of your interactions with students. Remember, many students are nervous about speaking. They have learned grammar in school but have not had a chance to practice.  A smiling facing and gentle encouragement contributes to them opening up with you.

· A  computer with a high-speed internet connection, camera and microphone are essential.

· You must be punctual for the sessions you sign up. Repeated tardiness could mean you will be penalized for a few days unable to access more teaching opportunities.

. A neat appearance and clean background free from distractions.

· Remember, you are teaching students English.  If your speaking skills are on the sloppy side or your grammar is not the best, this might not be the best job for you.

What I have learned:

· How English is now spoken all across the world and is the dominant language of business.  EVERYONE is learning English.  I have had anyone from a doctor to a clerk at Dunkin’ Donuts use Cambly.

· Having English speaking skills is considered an global asset competing for jobs.

· Multinational companies have opened up EVERYWHERE and locals are often expected to learn English to speak with counterparts in other countries.

· How the quality of public education varies from country to country.  For example, in Saudi Arabia all education is free but the public education in Brazil is considered inferior.

· In the Gulf States, labour and trades are done mostly by migrants from Asia and Africa.  Wages are determined by nationality.  Working with your hands in these countries is considered work for people of lower status.

· Students have unreal expectations when it comes to Canada.

· Most people do not know much about Canada and what they are unaware of our recent political problems.

· Students who consider immigrating usually want to go to Germany, England, Australia, United States or Canada.

· How difficult it is to learn English because it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

· The role of a tutor/teacher is highly valued in other cultures.  Students will often refer to me as “Teacher” or “My Teacher”.  Their appreciation for the new grammar, vocabulary or sound I have helped them make is extremely rewarding.

· I have improved my listening skills.

· I have increased my knowledge of linguistic features of many languages.

· I can decipher the messages communicated by a speaker of any language

· About human rights in different countries; how some disenfranchised groups are struggling to be recognized while other countries care very little about them.

· How countries around the world are struggling with fake news, political corruption, censorship of the media and seemingly unaware of what is often happening in their own countries.

The downside:

· The pay is not the best.  If you are relying on it for main source of income, that will be challenging. You get paid by the number of minutes you speak.  If you are doing it for the same reasons I am, the pay is a bonus.  I would likely do this even if I wasn’t getting paid.

· Sometimes, the platform doesn’t work or there can be a lot of technical difficulties based on poor internet connections in other countries.

· The students taking the free trial can be impolite.  There may be a lot of hangups, or they might stare at you like you’re an oddity.  In three cases I have had to hang up and report students on a trial because they were exhibitionists or crude. But, this doesn’t happen too often.  Three vulgar calls in 1000 is not so bad.

· You may be penalized if you have to cancel the schedule you have signed up for if you do so with less than 12 hours notice.

All, in all, I think Cambly is a fabulous app for people wanting to practice their English conversation skills but also a fine casual or part-time job for those who want to work a few extra hours.

If you want to learn more about Cambly

You can tell them that I referred you and use my code:  https://www.cambly.com/en/tutors?referralCode=eva533

 

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Hurray! It’s Hockey Night in Punjabi!


By:  Evelina Silveira, President Diversity at Work

What is more Canadian than hockey? Maple syrup or poutine? No, not even that!  So what do you get when you add our favourite symbol with a sprinkle of Indo-Pakistani culture? Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi!

You don’t have to understand Punjabi to appreciate the game. In fact, some of the enjoyment comes from listening to the broadcasters shout out a score.

The elation is magnified in Punjabi!

On the surface, Hockey Night in Punjabi may seem like just a hockey game moderated in another language, but its impact is far-reaching.

It’s a testament to:

  •  the “power of the buck”. It makes for great business. Punjabi is one of the most widely spoken of immigrant languages in Canada. This is a great way to expand the brand and sell! Market segmentation allows for new opportunities for growth.       Whoever thought of this was a genius!

 

  • from an integration point of view, it shows you can adapt and enjoy cultural aspects of a new country and make them your own.

 

  •  it tells us sport can bring people together whether you are an Indian-Punjabi speaker or a Pakistani one, cultural differences can be set aside to enjoy the game.

Not unlike the Punjabi spectators, when my parents came to Canada they had never seen a hockey game.  Football (soccer) was their sport of choice back home as ice rinks and snow were no where to be found.  However before long, they discovered the joys of watching Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday.  My mother could enthusiastically rhyme off the names of her favourite team — The Toronto Maple Leafs (this was the  70’s); complete with a Portuguese version of their name.  Before long, each trip to the corner store meant I had a new set of hockey cards with pictures of toothless Darryl Sittler and Eddy Shack!  I never really got into the game on TV, but did not want to break my mother’s heart. I accepted the hockey cards just the same appreciating them for the stick of bubble gum.

Integration into a new culture is not an easy thing to do, but every effort must be made to look at the brighter parts of what it can offer. Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi tells us while cricket may always be the beloved sport in India and Pakistan, cultural adaptation is possible and necessary.

From a business perspective, it shows us immigrants have spending power and taking a one-size-fits all model may mean missing out on economic opportunities.

So, hurrah for Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi!  You score on many levels!

 

 

 

 

Individual Versus Group Rights: The Diversity Challenge


Evelina Silveira, President, Diversity at Work in London

 

Depending on where you work, speaking foreign languages on the job can open up a big can of worms.    While it is an individual’s human right to do so, it can create huge issues of mistrust and cliques which can ultimately lead to racism.  No where is this more pronounced than in the manufacturing sector which is often fuelled by immigrant labour.

 After completing a recent sensitivity training session with a worker who was accused of making insensitive remarks to a group of foreign language speakers in the lunch room, I realized how complex and divisive this topic can be.   The situation becomes intensified when the workers are fluent in English but choose to speak another language over breaks and in their lunch room.   

 When my parents came to Canada in the 1960’s they did not know English and there weren’t any supports for people like there are today.  But English language fluency is much higher these days than in the past for several reasons.  With stricter health and safety standards workers must be more fluent to understand the workplace hazards.   The Canadian government has a fluency standard for immigration and there are more free programs for New Canadians to access to learn English than ever before.

 Breaks are a time to relax.  When you are not completely fluent in English, speaking it during the day becomes very tiring.  It makes sense that you don’t want to continue to make the effort because you need to refuel for the rest of your shift.  But, what if you are fluent in English and choose to speak another language during your lunch hour or breaks?  Indeed you have the right to do so, but this does not always mean it is the best choice and without consequence?  

 In Canada we also have the right to ask for religious and cultural accommodations in the workplace.  But is it always the right thing to do?  You can argue that it is “your right” but sometimes our individual rights clash with what is good for the group.  What if your team has an important deadline to meet and you must leave early from work to accommodate a religious obligation and they really need your help?  Are you going to leave and hold them completely responsible for finishing the task?  This may be your right to do so, but how are your co-workers going to feel about you tomorrow?  It all depends.  For example, did you do whatever you possibly could in advance to help them with the project? Might you be available in case of an emergency? 

 A key component missing from the dialogue on exercising individual rights in the workplace is the impact that it can have on your co-workers.  Creating exclusive lunch rooms segregated by language and shrugging off workplace responsibilities because of cultural/religious obligations do not make a recipe for harmonious  interpersonal relationships.   

 When we exercise our individual rights in the workplace we must also consider the impact it may have on our fellow co-workers and do what we can to alleviate the burden for them.  

Multilingualism: An Essential Ingredient of Culturally Competent Healthcare


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By: Evelina Silveira, President, Diversity at Work in London Inc, Publisher, the Inclusion Quarterly

Everyday occurrences and unprocessed feelings usually form the basis of my blogs. Today’s is no different. It is Tuesday, and I am still thinking about the elderly Italian woman I saw over the weekend in a long-term care facility and left wondering: Is there a better way to meet the needs of residents who do not speak English?

I don’t know Rosa (name changed to protect her identity) but I do know that she is Italian as I recognize some of the words she yells or her conversations to imaginary people. No one understands what she is saying and nurses and attendants just continue to speak to her in English, or they ignore her completely because they just don’t know how to communicate with her. Residents will refer to her as “the crazy one” or the “one who is always screaming”. I only know a few words in Italian, but I happened to recall the expression, Che bella ragazza. I decided to look directly at her and say these words to her, checking to see if there was a response. For a moment, she paused as she appeared to hear something familiar and I only had wished I could remember more. I had just referred to her as “a beautiful girl!”  Her face temporary lit up and my heart was warmed. If only, I could have a conversation with her, I thought.

I had to wonder, what was it like for her to be in a home where no one understands her. How frightening to become invisible and voiceless. What a disappointing way to end the remaining years of one’s life.

The need for multilingual staff and volunteers is extremely important in effective healthcare delivery. As more immigrants are entering these facilities, I believe that we could be at a crisis point if we do not do more to address this issue especially in long-term care. Even though the immigrant resident may be fluent in English, for reasons I don’t understand they will often resort back to their mother tongue especially as dementia sets in.

While it may be impossible to have staff who can speak all the languages the residents do, there should be more effort made to provide care to them in their own language.

Here are some recommendations for providing more multilingual services in long-term care.

Employee Recruitment . Research the demographics of your community and include foreign language competencies in job postings based on what you find and on your current service needs.

Libraries and Print Materials. Consider purchasing or asking for donations of multilingual books, periodicals and tapes that residents can enjoy. Add international media.

Foreign Language Training.  There are many low-cost and no-cost ways of learning another language. Conduct a Google search and you’ll find many that are free.

Create a Picture Dictionary With Basic Words and Salutations. These small gestures could go a long way with keeping the resident more stimulated in addition to increasing the competencies of the employees.

We are facing unprecedented changes in healthcare and creating more culturally competent organizations do not have to be costly. Using existing community resources and becoming more innovative in the recruitment, selection and retention of employees can go a long way with developing more inclusive services.

 

 

The Bachelor: Language Barrier Is Not An Excuse


Written by: Evelina Silveira, President, Diversity at Work in London Inc.

I hate to admit it, but like 10 million other viewers around the world I became hooked on The Bachelor reality program and saw it for the first time this last season. After a long hard day’s work, watching scenes of beautiful people and places and with absolutely no intellectual demands on my brain – The Bachelor was actually a relaxing way to unwind.

For the last 20 years I have worked with New Canadians so I have grown to learn a lot about second language acquisition. Most of the people who I have worked with would be at the Canadian Language Benchmark of 5 or over so their English is good enough for a survival job – at the very least. For the first few weeks, I was trying to figure out whether the bachelor, Juan Pablo really had a language barrier or were they referring more to his accent. I came to realize that while he might not know all of the slang and idioms like “the little package” he was referring to, but he could not blame his rudeness on his language barrier.

First of all, Juan Pablo has studied in the United States and worked in English television programming,obviously he would have had a very good command of the language. When he spoke he did not make a lot of the usual grammatical mistakes you would expect someone with a language barrier to make. He used articles and pronouns appropriately. Sharleen, the opera singer hit the nail on the head when she said she was looking for someone who was “more cerebral”. She was looking for someone who she could have an intellectual conversation with and it wasn’t him. Juan Pablo did not have a language barrier that prevented him from having an intellectual conversation: he simply lacked depth.

Even with New Canadians with low levels of English like a 5 or lower, they can often make connections, analysis and evaluations of events although with grammatical mistakes. However, if you listen, you can hear the depth of their logic. A language barrier does not make you self-centred. Juan Pablo’s lack of insight and ego-centrism has nothing to do with his language barrier.

He cannot use his language barrier to make excuses for his derogatory comments about gay people and those with cognitive delays. He has lived in the United States long enough to know that these comments are unacceptable.

Furthermore, when his parents said that he was often rude that was very revealing. Although Juan Pablo says he “likes to be honest”, this type of directness is sometimes even too much for North Americans. But according to Edward T. Hall’s theory of high context communication among Latin’s, Juan Pablo’s communication style would be highly inappropriate for a culture that likes to handle conflict in a more indirect way than spelling it out the way he did. I gather his style would not be a big hit among Latin people who are known for their exceptional politeness.

And by the way, Juan Pablo, you cannot blame your language barrier for not knowing how to say: “I love you” or “Will you marry me?” But blame it on something else. Sometimes, “it’s not easy” but it’s not “okay”. I have two pieces of advice for you: seek a therapist and get a thesaurus.

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