Choosing an ESL (English as a Second Language) program in Canada means researching a variety of options, including program length, school type, location, cost, and more. There are many different ESL programs available in Canada, and the following tips can help you compare ESL programs and find the one that best suits your needs and goals.

Program focus
Do you need general English language skills, or a more specific program such as business English, conversational English, English for academic purposes, or English for the workplace? Do you want to be in a group of other students, or would you prefer a tailored program for you as an individual? Make sure the ESL program you choose has the focus you want while suiting your current skill level.

Program recognition
Any ESL program you consider 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; this ensures there is ongoing monitoring of quality. See our section on Accreditation of ESL Programs in Canada for more details.

Teaching quality
Other than your own hard work, your teacher is the biggest influence on how much you learn, how well, and how quickly. Find out if the instructors are native English speakers, full-time professional instructors with proper training and previous work experience.

ESL learning doesn't just take place in the classroom. Find out about language labs, video and audio equipment, computers with Internet access and interactive learning programs, etc. Other aspects to look for include conversation clubs or other opportunities to practice your English outside the classroom.

Housing Options
The different housing options for international students in Canada include residences and dormitories, homestay and off-campus apartments. Availability will depend on where 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). Consider the costs of each option, as well as the opportunities each offers for daily language practice.

ESL programs are available in varous regions of Canada, so consider whether you want to study in a large city or in a smaller town. You should also be sure to consider the climate and likely weather of the area, 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.

Program goals
Know what you are getting: Does the program lead to a credential (diploma, certificate), a job, academic transfer, single or overall skill improvement?

Choosing an ESL program in Canada can seem daunting, but all the options means you're sure to find the program that will help you meet your goals.