English: Going Beyond ESL
By Consuelo Solar
Résumé Writing 101 dictates that when applying for a job, you need to customize your résumé so that it contains key words exclusive to your field, but this becomes an obstacle when all you know are basic phrase structures that may well help you make your way around the city, but fall short when you're trying to impress a potential employer.
This is a common barrier for many newcomers who have to face the difficult task of writing a cover letter without the proper knowledge of their profession’s specific vocabulary in English.For this reason many programs and services have been created in Canada to help internationally trained professionals learn to communicate effectively in the workplace.
According to Greg Edwards, Program Officer of Continuing Education at the Toronto District School Board, "Without a good understanding of English, and the ability to use it at work with your employer, newcomers will find themselves increasingly isolated, frustrated and marginalized.This is probably the way many immigrants start in a new country, but it is not the way to continue – or finish up – as you settle into the Canadian lifestyle," he says, advising new immigrants to learn about opportunities to improve their business and social networking communication skills.
We selected a few examples of the services available to you in Ontario.
Occupation Specific Language Training (OSLT)
OSLT courses are offered by 13 colleges across Ontario at no cost to newcomers who have training or experience in one of six sectors. To be accepted in the program, you need to have language proficiency at Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) levels 6 to 8, and be a permanent resident or protected person.
You will learn workplace language and culture skills required to build a successful career in your specific field. The courses will help you understand workplaces in Ontario; interact with customers, colleagues, and supervisors; develop strong interviewing, networking and career building communication skills; and practice common on-the-job language.
Workplace Communication Skills for Business includes courses for entrepreneurs, accountants, hospitality workers, and project managers.
Workplace Communication Skills for Human Services offers communication training for various settings, including nursery schools, daycares, elementary schools, police stations, and security providers.
Workplace Communication Skills for Health Care offers courses for nurses, sleep technologists, personal support workers, dental hygienists and medical radiation technologists.
Workplace Communication Skills for Construction Trades teaches effective on-the-job communication to carpenters, electricians, plumbers, steam fitters, and bricklayers.
Workplace Communication Skills for Automotive Trades includes courses for people with training or experience as a technician in automotive service, truck and coach, or heavy duty equipment.
Workplace Communication Skills for Technology offers courses for engineers, and information, architectural or environmental technologists.
To obtain more information about the OSLT program you can visit www.co-oslt.org.
ESL/Workplace Language Training
The Toronto Catholic District School Board and the Toronto District School Board provide workplace preparation classes for adult newcomers in partnership with settlement agencies and learning centres across the city. They take between 10 and 14 weeks to complete, and participants receive a certificate upon completion.
ESL/Bookkeeping helps students upgrade their communication skills while improving their knowledge of bookkeeping concepts, vocabulary, and technical skills training. It requires CLB level 5 to 6, and some background in bookkeeping.
ESL/Retail and Customer Service Skills teaches generic customer service language, principles, and skills used in different work environments. Students examine types of customers, and create a service management strategy. You need to have a CLB level of 6 to 7, but customer service experience is not a pre-requisite.
ESL/Language Upgrading for Internationally Trained Teachers: If you are looking to acquire strong communication skills to practice teaching in Ontario, this is a good choice for you. The intermediate level (CLB 8) focuses on the IELTS test, Canadian culture, pronunciation, current events in education, and advanced grammar, reading, and writing skills. The advanced level (CLB 9/10) focuses on education topics, practice with idioms and collocations, parent-teacher conferences, report cards, and meetings with colleagues, behavioural and academic problem-solving, and self-editing writing skills.
Advanced English for Internationally Educated Professionals: It targets communication skills necessary for any professional environment. It focuses on workplace communication and culture, pronunciation, English proficiency tests, usage of idioms and collocations, corporate and educational environment language, and self-editing writing skills. People from all professional backgrounds are encouraged to take this course, as long as they have a CLB level of 7 to 10.
Academic ESL Program: It parallels the general ESL class, but it is adapted to advance the interests of learners who want to pursue academic themes and content found in a college or university setting. There is a special emphasis on cognition and thinking skills, such as prioritizing and processing academic information, making inferences, and summarizing arguments.
To obtain more details about these workplace preparation classes you can visit www.tcdsb.org or www.tdsb.on.ca. Information about other occupation specific ESL programs are also available at settlement agencies websites, such us Skills For Change (www.skillsforchange.org), Costi (www.costi.org), and Access Employment (www.accestrain.com)
If you feel that you already know your vocabulary and are familiar enough with Canadian workplace culture, but your heavy accent is keeping you from effectively interacting with colleagues or clients, there are services that can help you with this as well. An example is the Accent Reduction Program offered by Voice Power.
Lynn Woodman, Public Speaking Coach and founder of Voice Power, recommends this course to anyone who feels lack of confidence because of their accent. “Speaking is part of most job descriptions, so lots of times people feel very held back in their careers because they are insecure about their ability to speak English correctly,” she says.
The course is delivered in eight sessions, and even though Woodman doesn’t promise to eliminate the accent right away, she does guarantee to provide the tools to keep practicing and improving. “Once the program is complete, I advise all my clients to find ways to get out and meet people they can speak English with, even outside of work,” she says.
This program starts at 400 dollars for small groups, and semiprivate and private lessons are also available. Woodman also offers free seminars. For more information visit www.voicepower.ca.