English as a Second Language (ESL) training is important for any international student. English is the primary Canadian language and, except for specific classes in other languages, academic studies at all levels are carried out in English. It is needed for everything from reading street signs to writing a dissertation, and the faster you acquire a firm grasp of English, the easier your studies and life in Canada will be.
ESL training is offered by many different institutions, including colleges and universities, high schools and private language schools. Most of these will offer some kind of initial exam, such as CAEL (Canadian Academic English Language Assessment), TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) and IELTS (International English Language Testing System). These tests help place students according to their needs and skill level. After the ESL level is mastered, you can pursue English for Academic Purposes, or EAP. The EAP program is designed to help students attain the level of English necessary to excel in academic reading and writing.
ESL and EAP instruction programs take different forms, such as conversation clubs, private tutorials or group work in a classroom setting. They are all highly participatory classes, so you may have to overcome some shyness! ESL programs may be intensive immersion programs, or the classes may be more flexible, designed to fit around a student's schedule. Not only will you participate in the classroom, but schools often offer weekend or evening activities. ESL students may find themselves sailing, mountain biking, windsurfing, or playing baseball, tennis or beach volleyball. These types of activities allow international students to integrate not only with their classmates, but with other Canadians as well.
Expect to find ESL areas of study like business English, conversational English, English for specific purposes (medical, legal, dental, etc.), English for the workplace, integrated programs (read, write, listen, speak), teacher training programs, language test preparation and university and college preparation.
You should also expect to make some new friends! Students in ESL classes often become good friends as they support each other in overcoming challenges and having new adventures.