English: "Step Forward Canada"

Did you know that if you can “identify factors affecting job retention and advancement” you will probably be placed at CLB level 5? Or that if you can describe the “traffic in your neighbourhood” you are most likely in a level 3, maybe 4?

The Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) are used for “describing, measuring and recognizing the second language proficiency of adult immigrants and prospective immigrants for living and working in Canada.” More than just a measure of your level of English, it measures your capacity to live in Canada… using one of the official languages.

Step Forward Canada,” a new book for English learners, is one the few ESL text books that uses these benchmarks. Each unit is theme based, giving the student a complete sense of what’s going on in the classroom, at home, in a grocery store or during shopping. For example, unit 11 is all about safety. As in any ESL book you can improve your vocabulary, reading, listening and pronunciation skills. But that’s not all. At the same time you can learn some tips about calling 9-1-1, how to behave in a car, and even resolve a math problem that deals with security in a chemical factory. Every unit is more complex than the one before. Unit 5, for example, is named “On the job.” All the learning activities are job-related.

At the bottom of every page, the book states what CLB level you are at so you are always aware of your improvements and deficiencies in a Canadian context.

It is not just plain English; it is the kind of English Canada is demanding for newcomers. Yes, the kind of English you can need while applying for a job, on a meeting or even during a trip to a hockey game. “Step Forward Canada” integrates CLB with communicative competence, critical thinking, math skills and employability skills among their activities. The author, Sharon Rajabi, has been involved in ESL teaching for more than 20 years, two of them as President of Teacher of English as a Second Language Program (TESL) in Ontario (from 2005 to 2007.) And all her savvy is in the books. All of them – five in total – are a great tool for ESL learners, even for those who are not attending classes – or are looking for extra homework – thanks to both sections “Can Do Check List” and “Test Yourself”, which allow you to assess your improvements.

Probably the biggest contribution of “Step Forward Canada” is the Canadian lifestyle that it tells you about. All the activities, lessons, conversations are about Canada. The entire collection of books is packed with “loonies” (instead of dollars), pops (and not “sodas”), and Canadian documents like Canada’s Food Guide. Now, that’s a great help for newcomers.

CNM