Learning the Language

1. What is the best investment you can make for your future in Canada?
The majority of newcomers say that difficulty with the language is the main problem they face after arriving in Canada. They have trouble understanding everyday speech in the street and have problems completing the various documents in circulation at the Settlement Agencies and job centres. There are also problems with the resume and job interview. The Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration of Canada recently increased the English language requirements. That said, many immigrants do not pay much attention to language, not realizing that it is directly related not only to adaptation, but also to employment. Without a good knowledge of the language, you cannot start a career in Canada. A survey of employers in Toronto showed that the main reason for the refusal to hire immigrants is a lack of knowledge of English. This reason was named by 87% of employers. Take the time, effort, and money to develop your English language skills because this is the best investment you can make for your future in Canada.

2. What level of English do newcomers have?
It depends on the stream of immigration program they used to come here. The website of the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship states that a person applying for the Skilled Worker class must provide proof that they have reached a level of CLB 7 or higher and for the Skilled Trades class applicants need at least CLB level 5. CLB levels were developed recently and are valid only in Canada. Unfortunately today there is no exam recognized for immigration to Canada, where your English level will be determined in Canadian CLB marks. Therefore, for the purpose of immigration to Canada, people usually use the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam.
There are no Ministry of Immigration language requirements for family class immigrants, refugees and persons accepted by the humanitarian program. They are not required to take the exam on knowledge of the English language, but if they want to find a job in Canada, learning the language is absolutely necessary.

3. What is the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB)?
The CLB system is designed to assess the knowledge of people studying English as a second language in Canada. To those readers who would like to become more closely acquainted with the system of CLB, we recommend the website Canadian Language Benchmarks. English as Second Language for Adults (www.cic.gc.ca/english/pdf/pub/language-benchmarks.pdf). This website describes in detail what you should know and be able to do in all levels of language provided by the CLB system which, briefly, consists of three stages and 12 benchmarks:
•  Stage 1 Basic Proficiency (Benchmarks 1-4),
•  Stage 2 Intermediate Proficiency (Benchmarks 5-8) and
•  Stage 3 Advanced Proficiency (Benchmarks 9-12).
Each step consists of four sections: speaking, listening, reading and writing.
Here are some examples what language skills are required for a person to attain a CLB 6.
Speaking. Be able to speak quickly with details using simple tenses about a topic related to a familiar field, while making some errors in the construction of words and phrases, and show the same skills while using the telephone.
Listening. Be able to understand the basic meaning of a voice message, spoken at a normal speed. Can highlight key words and familiar idioms, although may sometimes ask to repeat. Can follow the instructions and show the same skills while using the telephone.
Reading. Be able to understand the main ideas while reading text, written in plain language. Can figure out graphs and tables and use the information obtained during the reading in a familiar field, Can work with the English dictionary, where the meaning of words is explained in English.
Writing. Be able in one or two paragraphs to write some text related to a familiar field and fill in simple forms provided with explanations. Can take notes during lectures or telephone conversations by writing simple sentences.

4. How can I find my CLB level after passing the IELTS test?
If you passed the IELTS test, you can transfer your IELTS marks to CLB marks by using the table below.
Language level            IELTS marks  CLB marks
High Proficiency         7,0 – 9,0          8-12
Moderate Proficiency  5,0 – 6,9          6-7
Basic Proficiency        4,0 – 4,9          4-5
No Proficiency            0,0 – 3,9          0-3
Source: www.vec.ca/english/3/testing-ielts.cfm.

5. How can I find my CLB level if I haven’t taken a language testing exam?
If you haven’t taken an English level exam and want to find your CLB by yourself, go the website www.clb-osa.ca/home?PageID=6, which is available in 13 languages. The CLB-OSA is an online self-assessment tool for people who are interested in assessing their English as a second language. Tests are based on the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) and will assess your language proficiency in reading and listening. If you think your level is less than 8, start with Reading 1 and Listening 1. The test result is not official but is merely for your own information. Another opportunity to find your English level by yourself is go to the website Community Legal Education Ontario www.cleo.on.ca/english/projects/eslLevel.htm. Here you will find a description of issues related to rental housing and the right to work at different levels of CLB from 1 to 5. Reading texts of different levels will help you to know what level is appropriate for you.

6. What level of English do I need to work in Canada?
According to www.immigratemanitoba.com/speaking-of-success-1 at CLB 1-3, you can perform such jobs as a cleaner, a dishwasher, a kitchen helper, or a baker. At CLB 4, you may get a job as a child care assistant, home care worker (working with the elderly) or a hospital cleaner. CLB 5 is enough to work as an industrial, electrical and construction trade worker and CLB 7 allows you to work as an engineer, doctor, dentist, and architect.
If you immigrated to Canada through Family Sponsorship, Refugee, and Humanitarian and Compassionate Considerations, you need to find out language requirements according to your occupation and immediately start learning or improving English to reach the required level.

7. What level of English is necessary to enter a college or university?
To study in Canada, Canadian colleges and universities usually indicate what level of language is sufficient for admission to a particular program. If you graduated from high school in Canada, having studied for four years from the 9th to 12th grades, your level of language is considered sufficient. Also if you graduated from a program conducted in English at a foreign educational institution, your language skills will be considered sufficient without examination. Many institutions accept the results of the IELTS exam, although some universities require that you take the TOEFL exam. Your scores should be within 573-597 for the written exam, or 230-247 if you complete the computer-based test. Information about the examination and registration for the TOEFL is available on the website www.etscanada.ca/toefl.

8. What opportunities do newcomers have for learning English in Canada?
Fortunately, in Canada, immigrants have a lot of opportunities to improve their language skills. The LINC program offers free courses usually to the level of CLB 5-7 but there are also free courses in English as a Second Language (ESL) where you can raise your level to CLB 8-9. A number of schools providing ESL courses also prepare students for employment: you can learn about the job market, get help preparing a resume and get ready for an interview. By studying hard in a LINC or ESL school for the first year you can improve your language skills in all four levels.
Further, using the Enhanced English Training Program (CLB 10-12), you can begin to explore professional terminology. These programs exist for professions such as information technology (IT), engineering and administrative positions, as well as in the fields of medicine, finance, trade and marketing.
You can also improve your level of language at colleges or universities, but they charge tuition. In Toronto, for example, George Brown College offers eight-week classes for each CLB level. The highest level is CLB 9. The cost of this eight-week course for those who have landed immigrant status or citizenship is $535 and for those who do not have the specified status, it is four times more. The University of Toronto (U of T) offers a twelve-week English language course to prepare for university entrance which costs about $5,000. In ethnic community newspapers in Toronto, there are ads for private schools which indicate pay rates for language learning.

(To be continued)