An increasing number of students are choosing to study the English language in Canada over other countries.
Attracted by the friendly culture, low cost of living (when compared to the US and the UK), and the excellent ESL schools it has to offer, students from Asia, South America, Africa, and Europe are saying, “Hello, eh!” to Canada.
According to CBIE, here are the top 3 reasons why students from abroad choose Canada for their English language instruction:
- Canada’s high quality of education and international reputation for excellence.
- Canada’s stellar record of tolerance and acceptance of foreign visitors and residents, and its anti-discrimination policies.
- The safety of its streets and low violent crime rates, especially when compared to the US south of the border.
What Is an ESL School?
Simply put, the acronym ESL stands for “English as a Second Language,” but this is a bit of a misnomer. After all, many people who attend these courses are learning English as a third, fourth, or even fifth language! For this reason, you might hear some people use the title, “English as Another Language.”
ESL schools offer specific programs designed to help students from around the world learn English in a timely and effective way. The teachers hired by ESL schools may be bi- or trilingual themselves, or they may be native English speakers with no experience learning another language. What they do have is a deep and nuanced understanding of how best to teach English to students from a wide range of cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
Why Do Students Enrol in ESL Programs?
Every single one of the 494, 525 students mentioned earlier will have their own motivations and reasons for enrolling in an ESL program in Canada. For some, they have hit a wall in their career, and need to acquire fluency in English to get a promotion or advance in their workplace or field. They may have chosen to enter English language schooling on their own, or their employer may have arranged it for them.
Others are fresh out of secondary school or post-secondary education and want to sharpen their English skills before entering the workforce. Still others may have their own personal reasons. But while every ESL student is different, they all have one thing in common: the desire to speak and understand English at a higher level.
What Will I Learn in an ESL Program?
Any ESL school will offer programs designed to help you learn to speak, read, write, and comprehend spoken English. Whether you are starting from complete scratch or you have some experience with the language in the past, you will be placed in a diverse class of individuals at your level. Private tutoring and one-on-one lessons are also often offered.
How Are ESL Programs Structured?
When you start learning any concept or subject, it can seem overwhelming at first! ESL teachers know this, and they are skilled at breaking down the language into simple steps. Once you master one element, you build upon it and move onto the next, adding everything together so that you build your fluency along with your confidence.
While some ESL schools only focus on teaching language skills, many programs include other topics and subjects in English, such as history, math, science, and culture. This helps to give students a truly immersive, well-rounded sense of English that can foster better integration into broader Canadian society.
What Are Private ESL Programs?
Many of the best ESL schools in Canada are independent. They offer a small, personalized, and comfortable environment in which you can thrive and learn. Independent ESL schools are often a good option, because they offer small class sizes and a lot of one-on-one instruction.
Private ESL programs are possibly the best option for students who are starting out with English and who have no previous experience, since they offer focused, customized instruction that can help anyone become fluent in a very short timeframe.
Conversely, independent ESL schools can also be a great option for students at an advanced level, as the instruction can be tailored to all experience levels, and help with accent, pronunciation, and vocabulary (even slang!).
Where Do You Want to Live in Canada?
This is the first question you need to ask yourself. Here’s some basic info to get you started, though you’re by no means limited to these locations:
- Toronto is Canada’s biggest city, a bustling metropolis with a population that tops 5 million! People often compare Toronto to US counterparts like Chicago or New York.
- Montreal is a bilingual city with a rich French culture, so this could be a good option for native French speakers. It’s an even better option if you want to learn both of Canada’s official languages.
- Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and is home to a large and dynamic Asian population (plus, the weather is milder than the rest of Canada).
- Calgary is a booming oil town that has a lower cost of living than Toronto or Vancouver, one famous for hosting the world’s biggest rodeo.
Finding an Esl Program That Is Right for Your Needs
When you type “ESL Schools Canada” into Google, you end up with millions of results. It can be incredibly intimidating! How do you know which one is best for you?
You need to start by thinking about your goals. Are you considering ESL because you need to reach minimum English requirements for an international university? Do you want to advance your career? Do you simply have a passion for the English language? These goals will affect which kind of program you choose.
There are four main types of ESL programs that you can enrol in, and your goals are important when choosing the best for your needs. These are:
- General English – Ideal for anyone who wants to improve their basic English and communicate with ease.
- Pre-academic programs – These programs are designed to help you meet school language requirements.
- Exam preparation – Exam prep classes will help you prepare for specific exams, such as TOEFL and IELTS (the latter in case you plan on applying for permanent residency in Canada).
- English for specific purposes – These types of courses have been designed to help people in specific careers.
After deciding on the type of program you want to pursue, find a language assessment centre to gauge your proficiency level and book an appointment for a free assessment (you must take the test at an authorized language assessment centre, by appointment only). Once you know where you stand, you can start searching for the right school. Prior to studying or working in Canada, it is recommended that you fully understand the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB), which are used to teach and test language learning, including in many adult ESL programs. The CLB will give you a sense of what is expected of you, and will serve as a roadmap according to which you can measure your progress.
Whichever path you choose, try to enjoy the unique experience of learning a second language (especially one as widely spoken as English), and take advantage of the doors it will undoubtedly open.