Q&A with former student: Keming Shen

What drew you to Vancouver?

I had just completed high school in China and decided to visit Vancouver for a family reunion. I came to Vancouver to visit my sister who had moved to Canada. I did not have much of a plan, and I realized it might be hard to go directly to UBC. An acquaintance said that she had been to Langara and suggested I apply, so I applied.  

How did you decide to take language courses at Langara? 

I had always wanted to study languages other than English, and I had the opportunity to study a variety of languages at Langara. In China, studying languages was an extra-curricular activity and required paying additional fees to another institution. I have always been interested in languages and my sisters also happen to be language teachers, so they heavily influenced me. 

How was your learning experience at Langara? What courses did you take? 

I took French, Chinese, and Spanish courses. One course I really enjoyed was about developing French conversation skills. I enjoyed going to the computer lab. I also loved the teachers. They were very helpful and engaged us in interesting projects. Instructors were very approachable and created a nice atmosphere. In contrast with larger universities, at Langara, you feel like you’re in a warm cottage. There are nice study spaces, and a lot of sunlight comes through windows in the hallways. It’s not as big as a university, so you don’t feel lost. 

How did this experience help you academically? 

Academically, the courses gave me basic knowledge and a good foundation for continuing to learn French. This is important because most of the courses I took at UBC were French literature courses. It is quite challenging to study French literature when French is your third language, but Langara gave me a solid foundation and basic communication skills, which gave me confidence.  

I majored in French at UBC, then I completed my master’s at Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) in the USA. I was able to integrate all my experiences from Langara, through UBC to Middlebury, so that I developed the skills to teach a language. I am currently teaching English at Shenzhen Technology University Affiliated High School. 

What advice would you give students who are interested in taking language courses? 

It is great to study a language because you are interested in it, but it is a long process, and you need to persevere. You cannot always see immediate improvement; it takes time, so you need to enjoy the process. You also need to know what your intention is in learning a language because you need to be committed. Interest is essential, but it’s not always sustaining. You need to make your learning meaningful by being intentional about it.