Immigrants have responsibilities

When my family emigrated to Canada from Russia via Germany, here is what the government expected of us: To begin with, “Get a job!”

Re: “Fund only official languages” by Hank Nlielsen (Dec. 9)

I so agree with this writer!

When my family emigrated to Canada from Russia via Germany, here is what the government expected of us: To begin with, “Get a job!” because there were no hand-outs as we got off the boat, so we either sank or swam – our choice.

My parents were both educated people, but because they knew no English they had to do menial jobs, like house cleaning, and at night they had to attend English classes.

Once they achieved a degree of fluency in English, they were able to enter their professions, my father as an engineer and my mother as a nurse.

As for us children, I at age 12 and my two older sisters were placed in Grade 1 until such time as we mastered the Grade 1 reader. Then came Grade 2 with the same assignment, and so on, until we reached the grade level for our age, by which time we were quite proficient in English.

During high school my sisters and I worked in people’s homes, performing housekeeping duties and babysitting for our room and board, while our parents worked to earn enough money for a house, so the family could be reunited.

All along, we spoke Russian and German at home, and to this day we remain fluent in both languages. We were also taught the traditions of our country of birth, as well as cooking traditional foods, and we have delighted many friends with these dishes.

My sisters and I managed to attend university where we earned bachelor’s and masters degrees. I very much doubt that this would have been possible had we been pampered with “English as a second language,” instead of being totally immersed in English through our primary school years.

We are very grateful that the prevailing system encouraged our assimilation into this society, and it goes without saying that, had we felt this to be too much of an imposition, we certainly had the option of returning to where we came from. But instead, we became very proud Canadians.

Yes, immigrants do have responsibilities.

Margie Pratt

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