Choosing an English as a Second Language (ESL) program in Canada is an important step. Whether you are coming to Canada just to learn English, or whether you need English for the rest of your studies in Canada, the right program makes all the difference. There are many different ESL programs available in Canada, designed to suit many different students and their needs. Some general tips to keep in mind while you are deciding between the available programs are:
You might be looking for business English, conversational English, English for academic purposes, or English for your workplace. Maybe you learn best in a group of other students, or maybe you would benefit from a tailored program for you as an individual. Maybe you would do best in an online ESL program, an independent language college, or an ESL program associated with a Canadian college or university. Whatever your needs, you should make sure that the ESL program you choose has the focus you want while suiting your current skill level and giving you room to advance.
The ESL program you choose should meet the standards set by a language training accreditation agency, such as the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA) or a similar organization. The program should also be a member of a professional society or association, to ensure that there is ongoing monitoring of quality. Program recognition can make all the difference in applying your acquired English skills. See our section on Accreditation of ESL Programs in Canada for more details.
Are the instructors in your ESL program native English speakers? Are they full-time professional instructors? What training have they had, and have they lived and worked in other countries? Other than your own hard work, your teacher is the biggest influence on how much you learn, how well, and how quickly. You want to make sure you get the best instruction possible.
Language labs, video and audio equipment and computers with Internet access and interactive learning programs are all big advantages in an ESL program. Other advantages to look for include conversation clubs or other opportunities to use your English outside the classroom.
The different housing options for international students in Canada (such as residences and dormitories, homestay and off-campus apartments) will depend on where in Canada the ESL program is located, and what kind of school it is offered by (an independent language school or part of a university or college). When choosing your housing option, keep in mind that something like homestay will offer you more opportunities to practice your English on a daily basis.
ESL programs are available almost anywhere in Canada, which gives you a wide range of locations to choose from. You might want to study in a large city, or in a smaller town where you get to know more people. You should consider climate and likely weather, as well as how much travel you wish to do and the cost of living.
Consider the size of the campus, the number of international students at the institution, class size and teacher to student ratio.
Consider whether the program leads to a credential (diploma, certificate), a job, academic transfer, single or overall skill improvement, etc.
Choosing an ESL program in Canada gives you the power to shape your future!