ESL: Taking English Skills to the Next Level

Over the years, Ontario’s LINC program has offered many exciting, useful ways to help immigrants learn English and live in Canada. And one of the newest ways is among the most exciting and useful of all.

In the past, Level 5 was LINC’s highest level. Learners who graduated from Level 5 completed the program. Now they have the opportunity to take their English to new heights in Levels 6 and 7 – as do newcomers who are not yet LINC clients but whose English abilities are in the 6/7 range.

“New Canadians bring their high-quality education and language skills to Canada. Yet they still require specific training to help them integrate into society successfully,” notes Sharon Rajabi, adult education programs consultant with the Toronto Catholic District School Board.

“The Levels 6 and 7 curriculum, while assisting with their settlement needs, also ensures that they receive language and other instruction directly relevant to their individual circumstances and goals. Learners and instructors alike have indicated they want LINC 6 and 7 programs to meet the individual needs of learners.”

Many Level 6 and 7 classes are part-time. At some locations classes take place in the morning only. At others classes are held in the evening. At Skills for Change – a Toronto agency that provides newcomers with learning and training opportunities – clients attend class two evenings and Saturday each week.

“Newcomers at this level tend to have day jobs or are looking for work,” explains Rose A. Smith, acting LINC coordinator at Skills for Change. “The part-time nature of the class allows for more flexibility for these advanced language learners.”

Flexibility is also important when it comes to class content. She points out, “Every session and class sees varying needs among the learners, and the instructor alters the curriculum based on those needs.”

For the same reason, the 6 and 7 curriculum can also vary among classes in different LINC locations. In general, many curriculum themes and topics focus on helping learners succeed in the workplace and in post-secondary education. Topics can include job search strategies, business writing, meetings, essay writing, conflict resolution, and making personal and professional telephone calls.

Learners seem to appreciate the new LINC program and its flexibility. A sample of the response to the 6/7 program at Skills for Change:
Elena: “I am enjoying this class, and it is very helpful for developing my language skills.”
Xiao Fei: “This class is important to the process of my English improvement.”
Han Ming: “Very interesting topics ... the teacher is very nice.”
Jean-Pierre: “My speaking expectation is met because we have a [class] that allows every student to talk.”

Positive feedback like this is part of the reason the 6 and 7 program is growing so promisingly in Ontario. According to the YMCA Toronto LINC Assessment Centre, as of December 2007 there were 51 classes being offered by 29 service providers in Toronto alone. (Some of these classes are Level 6 or 7 only; most are 6/7, combining the two levels in a single class.)

As for the people in those classes, the Assessment Centre says that so far the average number of years of education for a LINC 6 client is 15.4, and 16.5 for LINC 7. Fifty-seven percent of LINC 6/7 clients are female.

But whatever their education and gender – and whatever their culture, country of origin, and work experience – these high-level learners share a common goal: to improve their English and their lives in Canada.

Newcomers not in the LINC program who wish to enter LINC Level 6 and/or 7 – or any other LINC level – need to first take an English skill-level assessment test. For an assessment, those in the Greater Toronto Area can contact the YMCA Toronto LINC Assessment Centre at (416) 925-5462. For more information about LINC Levels 6 and 7 in the Greater Toronto Area, contact (416) 928-3362 ex. 2167.

CNM