Welcome to my new “How To… Canada” series! In this series, I’ll try to put my knowledge to good use and shed some light on my new country: Canada. You will learn how some immigration tips and tricks, how to improve your proficiency in both official languages, how to find a job, how to settle in Canada etc. I’ll publish a new “How To… Canada” post every Saturday.
As most of you know, Canada has two official languages: French and English.
Now, most of the immigrants who are chosen under the skilled worker program will have to show language proficiency in either language. But it’s not always that easy. Some won’t speak either language and will need to learn from scratch (i.e family members accompanying the main applicant). Some newcomers will need to improve their language skills in order to get a job in their field.
Now, the good news is Canada is a multicultural country and no one will make you feel bad about your English or your French. Indeed, I found that Canadians were really nice towards foreigners. A lot of resources were implemented to help people improve their language proficiency and best of all, most of them are free!
If you have just arrived, you will probably still rely a lot on your mother tongue. You can take some time to adjust and get used to your new country using the following methods:
- Check out your local library. Most of them have books in foreign languages (the most popular seem to be in Chinese, Arabic and Spanish).
- Pick up a community newspaper. There are literally hundreds of ethnocultural newspapers published in Canada, a lot of them free and printed in many languages. Here is a list of national community and ethnic newspapers. You can also check out the Canadian Immigrant Magazine.
- Watch the news: OMNITV has a diversity programming with news, movies and documentaries in almost every language.
- Listen to the radio: CHIN Radio broadcasts in over 30 languages, CKWR in 22 languages and CMR in 24 languages.
Learn English or French: If you’re a newcomer to Canada, you may be eligible to free language classes.
- Canada has a program called LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) that provides free basic French and English language courses to adult permanent residents. To register, you must contact the nearest LINC assessment centre or immigrant services organization for an assessment of your language training needs and a referral to LINC course providers nearby. The toll-free phone number is: 1 888 242‑2100 (general inquiries). Here are the address of the LINC centers is most major cities: LINC Centers.
- Make sure to check your local community center. Each city usually has one and they provide invaluable resources for newcomers. Here is a list of the main immigrants serving organizations in Canada.
Once you master the basics of French or English, you may find it’s still not enough to get a job in your field, to attend university or simply to carry on with your career. This is usually the most frustrating stage (been there, done that…). But there are solutions!
- You can take enhanced language training (ELT) classes. It is a program that provides advanced level English language training to adult newcomers. The goal of ELT is to provide job-specific, labour market-level language training to help newcomers find and keep jobs that match their skills and qualifications. TLT is usually available in come colleges (see the Ministry Of Training) or professions and trades organizations (see the list). You can also contact your local community information center.
- If you work for the federal government, you may be eligible for second-language classes (English or French). Most civil servants have to be bilingual at a certain level (depending on your position’s classification) and will need to take two written exams and one oral exam to show their proficiency in their second language. These classes are free (I teach these classes by the way!).
- Get involved in language and culture social clubs: this can be a great way to make friends and to practice English or French! Membership is usually free and it works on an exchange basis: you teach the basics of your mother tongue and someone will practice English or French with you.
- Consider hiring a tutor is you’re not eligible for any free resources. Websites such as Kijiji and Craig List usually have tutoring ads. Check the person’s reference and agree on a learning plan to make sure the tutor is qualified. I tutored quite a lot and I’m happy to say my students were quite happy with the result!
To be able to speak French or English, or better, both, will do great for your career and your life in Canada. Resources are available… use them! Who knows, I might even end up being your teacher!