Quizzes on Canadian culture are crowd pleasers

It was like the wave at a Blue Jays baseball game, except that 170 international students and their English-language instructors weren’t at Rogers Centre, they were standing around linen-covered tables in The Underground restaurant in the Student Centre. The occasion was a gala dinner last Wednesday for participants in the non-credit summer language programs at the York University English Language Institute (YUELI). As MCs Andy Stark and Scott Boyd quizzed them with question after question about Canadian culture, each held up a T for true or an F for false.

Right: International students attend YUELI’s gala dinner

Toronto is the capital of Canada. True or false? Superman was invented by a Canadian. True or false? There were 22 questions and if you answered wrong, you had to sit down –  to hoots and hollers from the company of strangers – until one person remained standing at each table.

But the losers had a second chance. Each table had until dessert was served to complete another multiple-choice quiz (see sidebar). And the winner was Table 9.

 “It was wonderful,” said Helen Huang, associate director of business and administration, YUELI. “Everybody had a great time.”

YUELI director Calum MacKechnie started the evening off by welcoming the various groups of students from York’s partner institutions all over the world. Sheila Embleton, vice-president academic, told the guests  that YUELI is a key part of York’s internationalization effort.

 True or false?

  • Basketball was invented by a Canadian.
  • Avril Lavigne, Jim Carrey, Seiko Matsuda
    are all Canadians.
  • People from Asia/Siberia were the first
    to populate Canada/North America.
  • The population of Canada is over 300
    million people.
  • The maple tree is the national emblem
    of Canada.
  • A toque is a type of Canadian food.
  • Canada’s president is Paul Martin.

Choose the right answer:

1. Who was the first prime minister of Canada?
a) Wilfrid Laurier
b) John A. Macdonald
c) Pierre Trudeau
d) Wayne Gretzky

2. The 2010 Winter Olympics will be hosted by
a) Toronto
b) Montreal
c) Calgary
d) Vancouver

3. After English and French, the third most
common mother tongue is
a) German
b) Chinese
c) Spanish
d) Italian

4. Which group of celebrities is NOT
entirely Canadian?
a) Sarah McLachlan, Shania Twain, Avril
b) Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Sidney
c) Keanu Reeves, Jim Carrey, Michael J. Fox
d) James Cameron, Hayden Christensen,
Mike Myers
e) Scott Boyd, Andy Stark, Michelle Amenta

Answers: T,F,T,F,T,F,F. 1) b; 2) d; 3) b; 4) e.

After the Canadian content part of the program was over, there were songs from other cultures. Mongolian teachers wearing ethnic costumes sang traditional folk songs and students from Peking University also sang.

Knowledge of Canadian culture goes hand in hand with learning the language, says Huang. When they’re not in the classroom learning gerunds and building vocabulary, the 100 or so international students enrolled in YUELI’s non-credit English-language summer programs take York-organized excursions. They go to the usual tourist destinations – a Blue Jays game, the CN Tower and Niagara Falls. But they also get tours of Toronto’s ethnic neighbourhoods – Little India, Little Italy, Chinatown, Koreatown, the Greek quarter on the Danforth, the Portuguese area. “They’re here to learn the language and also to know Canadian culture, especially our multicultural city,” says Huang. “They see that it is not just something we talk about, it is a fact of life.”

Summer is the busiest time of year for YUELI. Students from China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Argentina, Spain, Russia, Poland and France enrol in a variety of English-language programs offered by the 21-year-old institute.

For the first time, Meiji University in Japan, which has been sending undergraduates for the one-month program every year, also enrolled graduate students in an accounting program at York’s Schulich School of Business that included two weeks of language training. For the first time, too, Peking University sent 14 students. And again for the first time, York hosted university instructors from Mongolia for a teacher training program..

Mongolian students sing traditional songs