If English is not your first language, you may need to improve your English skills when you come to Alberta. You will want to read, write, listen, and speak English so other people can understand you. One way to do this is to practise English with family and friends. You can also take English language classes.
You can find classes at:
- Agencies for newcomers
- Community and religious groups
Some classes are supported by the Alberta or Canadian government. These government classes are free. You may need to pay for other classes. Before you register, ask if you must pay a fee.
How good is your English?
“Learn as much English as you can. When you understand, everything comes easily. You need the language to understand the information. I know a computer programmer who wanted to do upgrading, but what he really needed was language training. He found work cleaning office buildings. That was OK for a while. But once he improved his English language skills, he was able to get a job in his field.” —Ed, an immigrant from Nicaragua
If you want to work in Alberta, you should find out how much English you need to know for your job. You can take a test to assess how much English you know. Then you will also know if you need to improve and learn more English. Some tests have resources you can use to prepare for the test. These are some of the common ones:
- Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) will tell you your level of ability in reading, writing, speaking, and listening to English. You can use the free CLB Online Self Assessment to see what level you have. Most jobs in Alberta need a CLB level between 5 and 8.
- The Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program is for permanent resident and citizenship applications through Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. It is also accepted for professional designations.
- If you want to study at a college or university in Alberta, the Canadian Academic English Language (CAEL) test helps you know if you have the right language skills.
- The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) helps you assess your reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. You can find a place to take the IELTS test near you in Alberta.
- The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) has 2 types of tests. One tests academic communication skills. The other tests English language essentials.
- You can use the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) to assess your English language skills for the workplace. There are 3 tests:
- For speaking and writing
- For listening and reading
- For learning your level in beginner or intermediate English
Which test to choose?
Different jobs need different language levels. They can use different tests. To find out which level of English and which test you’ll need, you can:
- Contact the employer you want to work for.
- Find out if your occupation is regulated in Alberta. If so, you can contact your professional regulatory organization or professional association. These groups help people who work in certain occupations.
- Check Tradesecrets for information about working as a tradesperson.
Find the right English class for you
Once you know the level of your English skills, you can take different kinds of English language training classes.
- English as a Second Language (ESL) classes are for people whose first language isn’t English. You can find ESL classes online, at most post-secondary schools, and at settlement agencies. These classes often teach more than just the language. They also help you learn how to adjust to your new life in Alberta.
- If you are a permanent resident or citizen of Canada, you can take Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) classes at no cost. Many settlement agencies and post-secondary schools offer LINC programs.
You can use online resources on your own to improve your skills.
Meeting employer expectations
“The 9 skills for success really capture what’s needed in the workplace. For example, employers tell us that adaptability is one of the key things they look for in employees. They also want people who can ask questions, who speak up, and who understand directions. Solid English language skills are key to all of these, and to understanding the workplace culture.” —Lisa Rochman, Associate Dean, Faculty of Skills and Foundational Learning, NorQuest College
Skills for Success Videos
The 9 Skills for Success are a set of core skills that everyone needs to be successful in learning, work and life. The Government of Canada created these videos to show the benefits of developing the 9 skills and explain how each can be used in the workplace.
Employers want their workers to know how to communicate—speak, listen, read, and write—in English. These are among the 9 skills for success that will help you reach your goals. They are part of the skills you need to do well at work, in school, and in everyday life in Alberta. They help you adapt to change, solve problems, and keep learning.
You may already be good at many of these 9 skills. But if you can’t find the right English words to describe your skills, employers and other people won’t understand what you have to offer.
Tips for learning the terms used in your job
Your occupation may also have certain words. These are called technical terms. Some jobs have manuals or codes you must understand. For example, architects have to understand building codes and technical drawings. Licensed practical nurses must use medical terms. Check with your professional regulatory organization or professional association to find out what you need to know.
Improving your English skills can be fun
Try to speak English as often as you can. Every time you talk to someone, you improve your language skills. Remember that our conversations with friends are different from how we talk in a business setting or at a job where people use technical terms. But the more you practise, the more comfortable you’ll be speaking different styles of English.
Listen to English every day. Podcasts, radio, tv, movies – these are all forms of entertainment, but they’ll help you improve your English. You can take out audio books, videos, and CDs from your local public library.
Read in English. Browse English websites or take out English books, newspapers, and magazines from the library. Try reading out loud to yourself or to family or friends.
Keep a journal in English. Try to write in it every day. You can write whatever you want. Describe what you did that day, what you learned, the lyrics to a song you like, or something funny you heard.
Once you’ve researched the English language skills you need for the job you want, tested your English levels, and practised as much as you can, you may be surprised to learn you’re closer to your goal than you think.