From Mandarin to Greek, Halifax is full of opportunities to master another tongue. Odette Merchant, manager in part-time studies at Nova Scotia Community College, says most of their students are preparing for trips abroad.

“We certainly have a lot of students who are getting ready to go on vacation and part of the fun of planning their trip would be getting to know the local language and a little bit about the culture of the area they may be travelling to,” she says. A smaller number are businesspeople wanting to gain a competitive edge.

NSCC offers classes in French, Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin and sign language. Most of the classes are offered at levels one or two. Merchant says the classes are “interactive and fun,” and the class sizes (under 20 in most courses) mean students have plenty of chances to test out their conjugation.

Most of the instructors speak the language as a primary tongue, with the Spanish teachers tending to come from South America and the Mandarin speakers from China. The courses run for 30 hours, with one three-hour evening class a week for 10 weeks.

“They tend to use lots of games, talking and music. They are intended to be very interactive and enjoyable,” Merchant says.

American Sign Language is a popular course, she says. “It could be someone who’s just interested in learning about sign language, or it could be parents or teachers of deaf children who would like to develop those skills,” she explains.

Many cultural centres in the city also offer language classes. The Italian Cultural Centre on Agricola Street has been offering a taste of Rome since 1976. It now teaches Italian across the Atlantic provinces. The newly refurbished Halifax centre offers nightly classes at all levels (including children), running from October through mid April. Check it out at

The German Heritage Language School likewise offers German language courses to adults and children, hosting classes Thursday afternoons at the Quinpool Education Center. The school starts with kids aged four and teaches German through play and music, with German folk songs, poems and dramas bringing the language to life. Learn more at

St. Georges Greek Orthodox Church and Community Centre on Purcell’s Cove Road offers Greek courses starting in January. The classes are usually populated by spouses marrying into the Greek community, but are open to the general public. Call Liana Karkaveli at 479-0190 for more information.

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