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Bold: Brushing up on English while hitting the trails

Great Sudbury Public Library and Rainbow Routes team up for a program called English Conversations on Trails, where those new to English can chat in the language in a relaxed setting
Beginning in August, 2023, Rainbow Routes and Greater Sudbury Public Library teamed up to offer a program called English Conversations on Trails, that helps those new to English or second language speakers brush up on their conversational skills in a relaxed setting.

The changing demographics of Greater Sudbury have brought many new Canadians to the Nickel City and when they come they bring their languages with them.

Learning English can be a real challenge and not everyone is comfortable with learning in a classroom setting.

With that in mind, Greater Sudbury Public Library and Rainbow Routes teamed up in August, 2023, to begin offering a unique new program: Why not offer English as a second language speakers (ESL) the chance to brush up on their conversational skills in a more relaxed setting in the classroom?

Thus was born English Conversations on Trails.

“The idea came out of the GSPL program called English Conversations, which helps newcomers and those who speak English as a second language feel more connected and able to communicate in a safe setting,” Rachel Mantas, the executive director of Rainbow Routes, told “We choose to help decrease anxiety when learning and practicing a new language by inviting individuals out into nature.”

Sudbury has a wealth of local trails to choose from for such an endeavour. Visit Rainbow Routes website to find a whole host of trails in the city limits to hike.

The weather, the sights and sounds of nature, all make good fodder for easy, relaxed conversations, Mantas said.

“We find lessening the pressure of a full conversation and instead talking on casual topics about the seasons, our community and sights we see on the trail can have a relaxing effect on those who choose to join,” she said.

Since August, 2023, the program has hosted 10 hikes with between five and 35 participants for each event. Not everyone who takes part is new to Canada though, Mantas said. Some people have been in Canada for decades, but still feel they want to brush up on their English.

“We have participants who have lived in Sudbury for 20 years, but were born in Italy or Portugal, and lived there for the first half of their life,” Mantas said. “They find this a really good experience. We also have many newcomers and international students who are looking to explore the many trails and natural areas of the Greater Sudbury Area.” 

Besides community donations Rainbow Routes receives, the program has received some funding from the city to make delivering the program easier.

“We always try to share a free copy of the map, made possible thanks to the funding received from the City of Greater Sudbury, and community donations to our not-for-profit,” Mantas said. “That is also why all these programs on the trails are always free.”

Hikes thus far have been held in Bell Park, she said, because it is a central location for everyone. There are plans, though, to explore other trail systems in the city.

“We have plans in the summer and fall to offer hikes at both Rotary Park and the New Sudbury Historical Trail,” Mantas said. “We also want to consider the Selkirk trail, which is located right next to Collège Boréal.”

The program received some additional funding through the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s Resilient Communities Fund. This provided the means to hire a “reliance co-ordinator”, Mantas said. That position, which was held by Angela Miller-Bruce, was a placement with RRA that ended in November. Bruce, however, continues to volunteer and lead hikes on her personal time.  

“In order to continue offering programs like these, we ask for our community support,” Mantas said. “You can donate here, become a member or sign up to become a volunteer!”

The next hike is tomorrow, April 27, in Bell Park. Participants are asked to arrive at the Grace Hartmann Amphitheatre for a 10 a.m. registration. The hike will run from 10:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

Rainbow Routes hosts an English Conversations on Trails event April 27 in Bell Park. The map shows parking and meeting locations. Image: Rainbow Routes

Parking is available in the York Street entrance to Bell Park, off of Paris Street.

For those taking Gova Transit, Route 1S leaves the downtown terminal at 9:54 a.m. and arrives at the York Street stop at 10:07 p.m. Buses leave from downtown to Bell Park every 30 minutes. Walking from downtown to the Grace Hartman Amphitheatre is 31 minutes.

The 1.5-2 km hike difficulty is rated as easy to moderate. Participants should be prepared to climb some stairs, though ramps are also accessible.

The hike leader on Saturday will be Muffie McIntosh and Angela Miller-Bruce.

Interested participants can also register in advance online as an alternative option.

Mark Gentili is the editor of Bold is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.


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Mark Gentili

About the Author: Mark Gentili

Mark Gentili is the editor of
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