2021-01-25T11:57:24-05:00Jan 15, 2021|

Learning the language of a new life in Canada

From an interview with Mauricio Neri.


Mauricio is a systems analyst who moved to Canada from Brazil in 2016 with his wife. She came here to study global business management at Humber College; he came on a dependent visa and began looking for work. Like many newcomers, Mauricio faced challenges with English language skills. He shares his story of overcoming hurdles through preparation, persistence, and flexibility on his way to improving his English, finding a career he loves, starting a family, and building a new life in Canada.


When we came to Canada, our goal was to build a new life here. My wife came to study, and I came to work. After getting her certificate and finding work, it was most important for us to become permanent residents. I remember a friend saying that the PR was just a document that didn’t really change anything. In fact, becoming a PR does change everything. You have the security of living and belonging here. It opens doors to job opportunities and even investing in Canada. I’m glad to say that we both have our PR, and we hope to eventually gain Canadian citizenship

Preparation for life in Canada starts at home

In Brazil, we lived in a big house, and we had a dog who had never lived in a small space. We knew that when we came to Canada, we would need to move to a small apartment. So, 10 months before we left Brazil, we moved to an apartment so we could all learn to live in a much smaller space. In the beginning, I was worried, but after two or three months, we realized that we made the right decision because having a small apartment was much easier: big homes require a lot of time and maintenance. 

Finding accommodation and the importance of credit history 

Coming to Toronto, we booked an Airbnb for one month, and every day we would wake up and look for a place to rent long-term. Our thinking was, If other people can find places to live, we can find one too. We took three weeks to find our rental place, and we struggled to find accommodation with no credit history. It was very challenging.

Like most newcomers, we didn’t have a credit history, which landlords usually ask for, so some landlords asked us to prove we had a lot of money in our account. One said, “You need $50,000 CAD in your account to apply to live here.” Finally, we found a good place near the college where my wife was studying. It was only 20 minutes from the city and affordable. We lived there for almost three years.

People who live here know how important your credit history is, but as newcomers, we were caught unaware. And the credit history was a bit different. As an international student, my wife got a credit card and started to build her credit history. I got my credit card after I started working and began building my credit history too. Having a good credit history can help you in terms of moving to a better place or if you have an emergency and need to borrow money from the bank.

Learning English is a challenge – practice is the solution

When my wife applied to study in Canada, I did a couple of English language tests. My English was not great, and it’s still not perfect today. People can understand me, but I want to keep improving my English skills. I tried various courses like English for newcomers, which helped with basic English. In one class I took, the students changed each week, and there were many different levels of English, as well as different levels of commitment. It was difficult, and we covered a lot of the same material over and over each week, which wasn’t very effective.

Learning Canadian English on the job

When you are living in a place, you learn how to speak the language like people who live there: it’s not just about learning English, it’s also the way people speak English here in Canada, how they say certain things differently. For example, I remember I was doing an interview, and the recruiter said, “Oh, we need someone who knows a technology called A.S.P.’ She pronounced it A – S – P.

I really didn’t understand what she was talking about because in my head – in Portuguese – we don’t say as A – S – P, we pronounce it as “Asp.” We were in a Zoom meeting, and I showed her the product I was working on, and she said, “Oh, that’s the technology we want, A.S.P.” I was pretty embarrassed.

In the beginning, I struggled in my job search because I had the wrong English level for the jobs I was applying to. It took me three months to find my first job. It was not the ideal job because it was a contractor position. They didn’t pay a lot – it also took an hour and a half to get to and two and a half hours to get home – but this job was so important to me for two reasons: it was my first job in Canada, and I had a place to practice and improve my Canadian English.

Improving English skills during COVID

The company I work for now has followed all of the proper protocols since day one of the COVID crisis, and I have been working from home since March. We communicate through Zoom meetings, which is great, but I was concerned about losing my English practice because I’m not talking to people in person. So I have been taking live online English courses, and my English continues to improve.

In Canada, you can grow professionally and personally

I want to grow in my career, but I’m not looking at the wider job market. I am looking inside the company I work for. It’s a great company – it’s very supportive. All my friends say they would love to work for a company like that.

My primary goal is to have the same position I had in Brazil – as a team leader – in the company I’m working for. You can, of course, change companies and change positions, but I find that when you build your career in a company, you can grow with the company, and that’s my objective.

Back home in Brazil, my wife and I didn’t plan on having kids because it’s a hard place, the economy is terrible, and there are issues with violence. Here, we can go out on the streets without fear. We can be relaxed, go for a walk and not be concerned about violence. So, we decided, “OK, let’s have a kid.” We love Canada so much because it is the right environment for raising a child. We hope to purchase a house here.

Tips for newcomers

1. Be prepared

When you budget for your first year, you need to plan for a year and a half. There may be surprises or unexpected expenses. Sometimes you need to move your goals or adjust your plans. You may need to downgrade your lifestyle a little when starting out. Things can happen, and you should have a plan.

2. Expand your network

Connecting with people is much better than connecting with a search engine. Don’t be shy about your English, because people here want to be supportive. They like helping and are open to having (virtual) coffee chats. Also, you need to have friends here; you need to recreate your personal network because friends support each other, especially if your family’s not here.

3. Be flexible

Every newcomer has a unique journey, and there are many paths you can take coming to Canada. You need to be aware of your options. For example, I wasn’t looking at Provincial Nominee Programs until a friend mentioned it to me while we were waiting for the bus one day. It changed my life. I changed my plans, and this program worked for me.

4. Be humble

This is very important because as newcomers, we don’t know the culture, we don’t know everything. I have learned from my journey here that people are open to help you if you need it. You just have to ask.