There are English-language schools in all cities and large towns, although the majority, particularly those offering intensive courses, are in the major cities. Many adult and further education institutions provide English courses and many Canadian universities offer summer and holiday English and French-language courses. Colleges and universities often run an English Language Programme, which is a pre-academic, English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) programme for students whose native language isn’t English.
Obtaining a working knowledge of or becoming fluent in English while living in Canada is ‘relatively easy’ (if learning any language can ever be called easy!), as you’re constantly immersed in the English language (except in Quebec) and have the maximum opportunity to practise. However, if you wish to speak English fluently, you probably need to take lessons. It’s usually necessary to have a recognised qualification in English or pass a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) in order to be accepted at a college or university in Canada. Foreigners who wish to study English full-time can enrol at one of the many English-language centres at Canadian universities.
Most language schools offer a variety of classes depending on your current language ability, how many hours you wish to study per week, how much money you want to spend and how fast you wish to learn. Courses vary in length from one week to six months and cater for all ages. Full-time, part-time and evening courses are offered by most schools, and many also provide residential courses. Fees at a community college are around $250 to $350 for ten weeks (two classes per week of three to four hours). Residential courses (often with half-board, consisting of breakfast and an evening meal) usually offer excellent value. Bear in mind that if you need to find your own accommodation, particularly in a major city, it can be very expensive. Language classes generally fall into the following categories:
Category: No. hours per week
Compact: 10 to 20
Intensive: 20 to 30
Total immersion: 30 to 40
Course fees vary considerably (usually calculated weekly) depend on the number of hours tuition per week, the type of course, and the location and reputation of the school. Expect to pay $125 to $175 per week for a compact course and around $225 per week for an intensive course providing 20 to 30 hours of language study. Half board accommodation usually costs around $175 to $225 extra per week (or more in large cities). It’s possible to enrol at a good school for an all-inclusive (tuition plus half-board accommodation), four-week intensive course for as little as $450 per week. Total immersion or executive courses are offered by many schools and usually consist of private lessons for a minimum of 30 or 40 hours per week, with fees running to $2,500 or more per week. Not everyone is suited to learning at such a fast rate (or has the financial resources!).
Some immigrants are eligible for free federal government sponsored classes called Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC). Other low-income students may have their fees paid or part-paid by provincial governments, although there’s often a waiting list for classes. In some areas, immigrant settlement agencies, community groups and churches provide free or low-cost language classes.
Whatever language you’re learning, don’t expect to become fluent in a short period unless you have a particular flair for languages or already have a good command of a language. Unless you desperately need to learn a language quickly, it’s better to space your lessons over a long period. Don’t commit yourself to a long course of study (particularly an expensive one) before ensuring that it’s the correct one for you. Most schools offer a free introductory lesson and free tests to help you find your appropriate level. Many language schools offer private and small group lessons. It’s important to choose the right course, particularly if you’re studying English to continue with full-time education in Canada and need to reach a minimum standard or gain a particular qualification.
You may prefer to have private lessons, which are a faster but more expensive way of learning a language. The main advantage of private lessons is that you learn at your own speed and aren’t held back by slow learners or dragged along in the wake of the class genius. There are invariably advertisements for English teachers in local newspapers. You can also place an advertisement for a private teacher in local newspapers and magazines, on shopping mall notice boards, at town halls, libraries, universities and schools, and through your (or your spouse’s) employer. Your friends, colleagues or neighbours may also be able to help you find a private teacher. For further information regarding languages in Canada.
This article is an extract from Living and working in Canada. Click here to get a copy now.