How a woman sold me fresh vegetables speaking broken English – A true story

By: Jack Xu

If you skipped the class or if you weren’t curious about marketing, here are some fundamentals; always get them to buy what you are selling. At least, that is what the elderly Chinese woman at a grocery store in my neighborhood taught me while I was buying vegetables one fine evening.

“You want tomatoes? $2 outside,” she pointed to the boxes lying outside her shop. As I returned with a bag, she added, “Other stores $3, we sell $2,” While I was paying her, she told me she lived in my neighborhood. “Go straight and next intersection,” she gesticulated. And, it was then that I realized I just had a conversation with the woman, albeit in broken English.

Like many newcomers, she spoke limited English, which although not a surprise speaks volumes about the spirit of several newcomers who arrive in Canada. In fact, many newcomers make a decent living speaking limited or no English. Very often, newcomers live in enclaves defined as a place where at least 70 percent of the population belongs to a Visible Minority group.

Consider this: [1] A 2011 study conducted by the Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) showed that enclaves do not appear to contribute to the challenge of socio-economic integration for newcomers or members of Visible Minority groups in Canadian cities. In fact, it may be possible that they foster socio-economic integration. This technically means that visible minorities and newcomers who live in enclaves contribute to the growth of the country as much as Canadian citizens.

The study also found that the social geography of the largest Canadian cities are ‘super-diverse’ and not based on the ‘parallel-lives’ model. The study also found that the social geography of cities such as Toronto and Vancouver has moved towards a new residential order that is comprised of more enclaves and also more micro-level diversity in residential neighborhoods.

Since we are truly diverse on all levels, maybe it is about time we looked at immigration from a different perspective. So, the next time you run into a newcomer who is trying to tell you something in broken English, you might want to step into their shoes and listen to them. You might learn or even end up buying something.

-By Vivek Vijayapalan | Feb 10, 2017