English: The Door to The Future is Open and the Sign on the Door is in English

ESL Training in the GTA

Good English language skills will open many doors. Going through any of them will certainly make your life easier and more pleasant. Some doors lead to better jobs and some lead to higher education.

The LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) program is the first choice of most new immigrants. It makes the most sense for people on limited budgets, because the programs are funded by Citizenship & Immigration Canada, therefore they are free. To be eligible for the LINC program, you must be 17 years old and be a landed immigrant, a convention refugee or a Minister Permit holder. Canadian Citizens and Refugee Claimants are not eligible.

In order to get into the LINC program, you must go to a LINC Assessment Centre to have your English language ability evaluated. Every year the YMCA LINC Assessment Centre in Toronto serves over 23,000 clients, with an average 60% of the clients going to one of their four offices within the first month in Canada (see sidebar for addresses and phone numbers).

The CLTA (Centre for Language Training and Assessment) runs LINC Assessment Centres in Mississauga, Brampton, Halton and Malton.
In Toronto, the process starts by calling 416-925-5462 to make an appointment.
When you arrive at the YMCA LINC Assessment Centre, you will be asked to provide the original or a certified copy of your immigration document as proof of your immigration status. Then you take the Canadian Language Benchmark Assessment (CLBA) test or the Canadian Language Benchmarks Placement (CLBPT) test. Within 1.5 to 3 hours of walking through the doors, you can be assessed and enrolled in free LINC classes at one of the 135 LINC schools in the GTA.

Aside from speaking English, LINC assessors speak at least one other language. Within the multicultural staff at the YMCA LINC Assessment Centre, there are 23 languages represented. All assessors possess a TESL certificate (Teaching English as a Second Language) and have completed at least one post secondary degree.

If you are assessed at benchmark 7 or under in listening/speaking skills, benchmark 6 or under in reading and writing, you will be placed in a LINC program. LINC classes are available to every adult in your family, not just the person who may be looking for work. If you are assessed above this level, you will then most likely be referred to a more appropriate ESL or job-training program.

LINC offers both full- and part-time classes, and most centres offer free child minding while you attend classes. Students may take LINC classes for up to three years from the time they start training. The YMCA LINC Assessment Centre advises that this is just a guideline and that at the end of the three years you can apply to remain in the program.

In some parts of the city, such as Scarborough and North York, there are long waiting lists for LINC classes. As long as you are able to travel to classes, you can avoid waiting lists by enrolling in classes in a different part of Toronto.

LINC class sizes are often a little larger than you will find in private ESL schools, with an average size of 20 to 25 students. LINC teachers are required to have TESL (a recognized program in Teaching English as a Second Language) certification, but any certification beyond that is determined by the School Board offering the courses.

These teachers are school board employees, which means that classes may not be available during strikes and labour disputes. As with any ESL program, you will find that some teachers are better than others. If you are unhappy with your teacher, you can arrange to attend a different school for the next semester and get a different teacher.

There are eight LINC benchmarks in Ontario, divided into five levels. In the lower benchmarks you will be able to read and follow simple instructions and copy information. By benchmark 6, you will be able to take notes and deliver short oral presentations in English. Once you have reached the upper benchmarks, you should be able to follow complex instructions, be able to apply and reproduce the information and write articles presenting an overview of an area of knowledge based on research from a number of sources.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada is currently reviewing proposals for enhanced language training programs aimed at students with language skills in the higher LINC benchmarks. Free or inexpensive programs may be available in the future, but for the moment, if your English expertise is higher than benchmark 6 or 7, your choices are less clear cut and more expensive. Your choices depend on your goals. If you want to improve in order to get a promotion or better job, you can hire a tutor or attend business English courses at one of the private ESL schools. If you intend to go to university or college, you can enroll in EAP (English for Academic Purposes) programs at colleges such as Humber or Sheridan, or take TOEFL preparation courses at one of the more than 50 private ESL schools in the GTA.

Most students studying ESL at the private schools, colleges and universities are foreign students. Some of their students are people who don't qualify for LINC but have a need to learn English. This can include people in Canada on work visas as well as immigrants at advanced levels who want to keep improving their English skills. Joe Aversa, Director of the ESL program at Humber College says that their grads receive one college credit if they decide to continue their education at Humber.

If you have the money and ambition to continue improving your English skills, then attending private ESL schools can be an excellent investment.
A great deal of information about ESL training is available on line.
Here are a few of the best and most informative websites on the subject:

To find out more about the LINC program in Toronto, visit www.ymcatoronto.org

To find out more about LINC programs in Peel, visit www.clta.on.ca

LINC ASSESSMENT CENTRES

BRAMPTON
CET Brampton Campus
150 Central Park Drive, 2nd Floor
Brampton, ON
For an appointment, call 905-791-6700

HALTON
(Assessment Sites in Oakville,
Burlington, Milton and Georgetown)
For an appointment, call 905-875-3851
or 905-270-6000 ext.227

MALTON
Morning Star Middle School
3131 Morning Star Drive
Malton, ON
For an appointment, call 905-677-0007

MISSISSAUGA
CET Mississauga South Campus
100 Elm Drive, Room 116
Mississauga, ON
For an appointment, call 905-270-6000 Option 3

NORTH YORK
1315 Finch Avenue West, Suite 503
North York, ON
For an appointment, call 416-925-5462

REXDALE
1530 Albion Road, Suite 83,
Etobicoke, ON
For an appointment, call 416-925-5462

SCARBOROUGH
10 Milner Business Court, Suite 600
Scarborough, ON
For an appointment, call 416-925-5462

TORONTO
YMCA Newcomer Information Centre
42 Charles Street East, 3rd Floor
Toronto, ON
For an appointment, call 416-925-5462

CNM