What is ESL?

English as a Second Language (ESL) classes teach English to newcomers and others who do not speak English as their first language.

For many newcomers, the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) and related classes are one option. If you are not eligible for these classes, there are many other ESL classes available to you through community agencies, schools and libraries in your community.

Some are basic English classes for people who speak little or no English, while other classes are advanced-level or specialized English language courses. There are general programs for speaking, listening, reading and writing. You can also get job-specific language training to prepare you for work. There are many different options available to you including full-time and part-time classes, day, evening and/or weekend classes. Some classes accept students at any time and others have specific start dates.

All classes are taught by trained certified teachers. You will learn English by doing different activities with the whole class, in small groups, and individually with the teacher. Through speaking, listening, reading and writing activities, you will learn English quickly, and also have lots of opportunity to speak and participate in English discussions and exercises.

Most schools offer special ESL classes for children as part of their school work, at no cost.

Who Can Take ESL Classes?

In Ontario, you are able to enroll in ESL classes if you are:

  • 18 years of age or older
  • A Canadian citizen, Permanent Resident, a person who has applied for Permanent Resident status and has received a letter from Citizenship and Immigration Canada stating you have initial approval, a Landed Immigrant, Convention Refugee or Refugee Claimant with a study permit, a temporary resident (including foreign student, worker, or visitor)
  • Have English language skills that are currently at CLB Level 1 to 6 or higher

How to Enrol

Before enrolling in ESL classes, some schools and community agencies require that you complete an assessment of your language skills to help find the level of class that best suits your needs.

The assessment is for class placement purposes only and is not a pass or fail test. The assessment covers the four language skills – reading, writing, listening and conversation. Results are not recognized as official Canadian Language Benchmarks documentation.

To find out where ESL classes and other special interest courses are currently being offered, start dates and times, or to arrange an assessment interview if needed, please contact the closest community organization in your community, or click here to find out where ESL classes are currently being offered through your local school board. Each website listed has a direct link to current class schedules, start times and locations.

You can also visit www.settlement.org or www.ontarioimmigration.ca to find out where ESL classes are offered in your neighbourhood.

If you are interested in learning English from home and do not qualify for LINC, visit the Independent Learning Centre (ILC). ILC is Ontario’s designated provider of distance education. ILC offers different ESL classes through distance education so that students can learn in their own home. Portions of the course are provided by CD or cassette and by telephone. This course requires that each student have a volunteer tutor to help register for the courses and complete coursework.


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