LEARNING ENGLISH & FRENCH
Canada has two official languages: English and French. English is the most commonly spoken language in the majority of provinces and territories. Outside Quebec, 82% of Canadians speak English. You may choose to focus on learning or improving either English or French.
The importance of language skills
Strong language skills are important for many reasons, such as doing well in college in Canada, finding a job, meeting new people, obtaining a visa and settling in Canada.
Newcomers come to Canada with different levels of French or English, and many feel they would benefit from further language training. It takes time, energy and commitment to improve your language skills, but the rewards are worth the effort. If you do not already speak one of Canada’s official languages at an advanced level, we encourage you to take steps to improve your French or English as soon as you arrive in Canada.
If you already speak one of Canada’s two official languages at a high level, you should consider making an effort to learn the other one. In many parts of Canada, the ability to speak both English and French is a major asset for finding a good job and participating fully in all aspects of society.
Taxpayer-funded language classes
In Canada, most newcomers who are permanent residents are eligible for free taxpayer-funded language classes.
For children and youth: the primary and secondary school systems provide English and French classes for children and youth.
For adults: many programs offer language classes to help adult newcomers improve their language skills. These language programs have many advantages:
- Classes are taught by qualified instructors
- They are often available in a classroom with a small group of other adults or through distance education (that is, on the Internet or through printed materials sent to you at home).
- Classes can be full-time or part-time, during the day, evening or on weekends.
Some programs may offer funding to cover the cost of childcare while you are studying and the cost of transportation to and from your classes. Childcare services are sometimes available on site.
There are a number of different types of language classes available:
- General language classes at many levels.
- Classes that teach advanced and workplace specific language skills.
- Classes that teach literacy and language (for people who have difficulty reading and writing in any language).
- Classes for people with special needs.
Registering for taxpayer-funded language classes
Federal, provincial and territorial taxpayer- funded language classes are offered in all provinces and territories.
To begin language classes funded by the federal government, you must first get an assessment. This assessment is simply to find out your current language skills. To get an assessment, visit a language assessment centre in your city. You can find the address and contact information for an assessment centre near you on the Citizenship & Immigration Canada (CIC) website.
After your assessment, staff will help you decide what language class is best for you. They will also provide you with a referral to a school so that you can begin classes. If you would like to find out your current language level before doing a formal language assessment, you can complete the self- assessment test at CLB-OSA.
To find information about other language training programs funded by the provinces or territories, visit the website for newcomers of the province or territory in which you live.
Private Language Classes
You may choose to pay for language classes at a private language school as an alternative to taxpayer-funded language classes.
Language proficiency tests and certificates
There are some cases in which you may need (or want) to provide proof of your level of proficiency in either English or French (for example, when you apply for a visa, a job or entry into a university or college). Several language tests are widely recognized. They provide a certificate of language proficiency that can be used in a variety of situations. These tests and certificates are offered by independent organizations, not the Government of Canada. You can take these tests at locations across the country.
These are some of the most widely recognized English language tests and certificates:
- International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
- Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP
- Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL: commonly required by universities and colleges)
These are some of the most widely recognized French language tests and certificates:
Source: Welcome to Canada: What you should know
www.cic.gc.ca, Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Reproduced with the permission of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2013.