Learning the Language
9. What does LINC mean?
If you received landed immigrant or refugee status and need only basic English, it is best to apply to the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program. This free program financed by the federal government is available for landed immigrants and refugees. The LINC program has part-time and full-time classes for Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) levels 1 to 7 which are taught by city school teachers, as well as by staff of colleges and universities. Most likely, the LINC program will be your first step in learning English after arriving in Canada. To find addresses of LINC centres go to www.cic.gc.ca/english/newcomers/map/services.asp. After visiting the assessment centre and evaluating your English level, you will be directed to an appropriate school. Often, these schools will provide compensation for your public transportation expenses and offer free day care for children during class time. There are also summer schools. You need approximately three months of dedicated study to raise your English skills to the next level.
Before selecting your courses, you should find the appropriate school address and determine if it is far from your home and whether or not you will get reimbursed for transportation. If you have pre-school children, determine whether there is a nursery in your language school. Find out whether the timetable is consistent with the hours of your job, if you already have one. You can choose a school with full-time or part-time schedules and even find a teacher who knows your native language. There are classes that are offered in the evening and on weekends; some schools are open during the summer. Sometimes you have to wait until there are vacancies at the chosen school.
10. What does ESL mean?
If you do not qualify for LINC classes, there are English as a Second Language (ESL) classes available in your community. This is also a free program which is financed by provincial or territorial governments. ESL classes are available for people who come to Canada as temporary workers or international students, for people who only applied for Landed Immigrant or Refugee status, for Canadian citizens and even visitors (for a small fee). To search for a suitable ESL school in Ontario please visit: www.onlinetools.ontarioimmigration.ca/esl/wizard/index.aspx?culture=en.
The search consists of four steps: choice of language (English or French), choice of city or town where you live, choice of district of the city or town and, finally, choice of the desired level of training. Before writing courses you will take a small test and after determining your level of English you will be offered the appropriate class. The ESL schools can raise the level of English to CLB 8-9 and in some schools to CLB 12. These schools usually do not compensate your public transportation expenses and do not offer free day care for children during study time. Sometimes you have to wait until there are vacancies at the chosen school.
11. What does ELT mean?
The program "Enhanced Language Training" started almost 10 years ago. For this program, financing was undertaken by the government. The main goal of this program is to help immigrants with different occupations find a job by studying the professional language in the area of their occupation. Simultaneously with the study of professional English language, these immigrants learn about the most effective methods of finding employment which are generally accepted in Canada. These courses teach professional terminology, the language spoken in offices and organizations, resume writing and how to pass an interview. Programs are designed for people with the status of landed immigrant and refugee but in cases of a shortage of students, others can be taken too.
Therefore, we recommend contacting in person or by phone the organization you are interested in to get more information. To participate in the Enhanced English Language Programs, there is a required level of English at CLB 6-7, with submission of documents confirming this level. In some places you have to pass an English test. More information on the Enhanced Language Training program, as well as addresses and phone numbers of organizations offering courses in this program in 11 languages can be found at the webpage http://english.inmylanguage.org. Click on Working in Canada, then Workplace Culture, then What is Enhanced Language Training (ELT)?
12. How can I prepare for the TOEFL test?
The TOEFL test measures the ability of non-native English speakers to use and understand the English language as it is heard, spoken, read and written in the university classroom. Preparation for the TOEFL test is conducted in a number of schools, many of them supervised by the Toronto District School Board and Toronto Catholic District School Board. The schools can be found at the following website: www.tdsb.on.ca/programs/continuing_education/esl/default.asp. Information about the examination and registration for the TOEFL in 8 languages is available at www.ets.org/toefl. In libraries you can find manuals to prepare for TOEFL exams. This test costs money; the fee depends on the test location you choose but is approximately $250.
13. Where can I practice my conversation skills?
All English language schools in Canada have special classes in which students learn how to speak and listen in English, get familiar with the common English idioms, ask questions, answer teacher's questions, and talk to each other. By visiting lectures and seminars for immigrants, you can listen to the presentations in plain English, ask questions and get answers. You also can improve your conversation skills by working as a volunteer in English-speaking organizations. Many community centres and libraries in Canada have clubs, where immigrants can communicate in English.
For example, some libraries in Toronto conduct such programs as "English Conversation Circle." "English as a Second Language Reading Circle," and "English Café," where you can practice your conversation skills. A schedule of these events in Toronto can be found in the library brochure "What's On". Do not hesitate to speak English to any person: the locals are generally sympathetic to immigrants and will not make fun of your language. We also recommend the website http://english.inmylanguage.org -- click on Education, then English as a Second Language, then How can I improve my English conversation skills.
14. Where can I practice my reading skills?
Each public library has an English as a Second Language (ESL) section. In this section there are various textbooks and dictionaries for newcomers. Those who are willing to take the language exams IELTS or TOEFL will find many manuals that help prepare for these exams. In addition, ESL sections have a lot of books designed for beginners, and you can choose a book that corresponds to your level. Most such books are published in Britain by the publisher Pearson Education Ltd. Look at the back cover of the book where you will see the language level depending of the number of headwords:
Headwords 200, Level 0, Easy starts
Headwords 300, Level 1, Beginner
Headwords 600, Level 2, Elementary
Headwords 1200, Level 3, Pre-Intermediate
Headwords 1700, Level 4, Intermediate
Headwords 2300, Level 5, Upper-Intermediate
Headwords 3000, Level 6, Advanced
Identify your English level by asking your English teacher or trying books of different levels. Also in some libraries there are sets, which include a brochure and an audio cassette. With this set, you can first read the booklet and then listen to the tape, or instead, try to understand the text by listening only.
Another useful website is that of the ESL section of the Toronto Public Library at www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/new-to-canada/esl.jsp.
15. Is it possible to live in Canada without knowing English?
If you are not planning to study or work in Canada, if your children have grown up and are fluent in English and you are at an age when there is no need to take a test when obtaining citizenship, you may be able to get by without English. In your ethnic community people speak your native language in shops and restaurants, medical clinics, laboratories, pharmacies and in organizations serving immigrants. You will be able to pass the driver's licence exam, find the information you need on the Internet, take out library books - all in your native language. You can listen to radio and watch TV programs, attend performances by local and touring artists—again, in your native language. Many important telephone services will help you in your own language, and for contacts with the authorities you may get an interpreter.
Does this mean that you should not learn English? Not at all! Firstly, there may be a situation where the most basic English phrases can literally save your life, and secondly, not knowing the language spoken in the country where you live, you will lose the opportunity to experience other cultures and traditions and will often feel helpless. We believe that learning English is absolutely necessary!
16. Where can I find sources of additional information about learning English in Canada?
We recommended the following sources for newcomers about studying English in Canada:
Language test equivalency charts www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/tools/language/charts.asp, which shows equivalencies between the Canadian Language Benchmarks and other testing systems.
Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks www.language.ca.
Language Assessment. What you need to know www.tcet.com/assessmentguide/assessmentguide.pdf.
Language Assessment and Referral Centre in Toronto
The International English Language Testing System www.ielts.org.