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Zhi Hai’s Story

By WENDY TERRY - June 20 2019
Zhi Hai’s Story

Zhihai is an ESL student in the first level ESL class at Overland Learning Centre. It is remarkable that he is 91 years old and has been learning English for over two years now.

He came to Canada in June 2017 and started English classes in November 2017.  His daughters are living in Canada and his wife had passed away, so he moved here.  He told me through Duoli, our translator, see her story below,  “ If you come to Canada, you must learn English.” 

Some seniors coming to a new country would just retreat to their daughters’ lives, relying on them to translate for them.  Not Zhihai.   

Maybe it is because he was a university professor in Bejing, that he sees learning as a natural challenge. When I mentioned to him that if you teach, you know how to learn. He gave me a Chinese saying. “Give the order, study the order.” We know that to really learn something, you must be able to teach it. This is common knowledge in all cultures. 

The picture shows Zhihai showing what he knows about what Rosemary, his teacher, had just taught him. He has great praise for Rosemary.

He noted that he learns about many other cultures in his class as most of the students come from different countries. So he learns from his classmates and he no doubt tells them about China. 

Zhihai’s speciality is Biology and Genetics. For 20 years he studied and researched about “rice and humans.” Then he taught at university for 10 years.  

He not only stays fit mentally by learning English but by staying physically active. Rosemary found him for me, doing Tai Chi with his fellows students in the parking lot. He walks to Overland using his walker every day. He lives in the neighbourhood.  He never misses a class.  Everyone told come rain or shine, snow or ice he is there. 

I noticed that he seemed to understand much of what I said, although Duoli was translating his answers.   He told me he listens to English  videos at home. Ah that explains his advanced level skills in listening. 

Duoli got her Level 7, 8 ESL Certificate in 2016. She translates for others in her residence, She is 82 now and came to Canada when she was 62.  I told Zhihai, he  will have to live to be 100 in order to earn his Level  7 8  ESL Certificate like Duoli did.  He laughed, no translation needed.

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