Canada has two official languages: English and French. English is the most commonly spoken language in most provinces and territories.
French is the main language spoken in Quebec and in some areas of Ontario, New Brunswick and Manitoba. In addition, there are francophone communities in all provinces and territories across Canada. Quebec also has a large minority of English-speaking residents.
You can get all official federal government services, publications and documents in both English and French.
The importance of language skills
Good English or French language skills are very important to help you settle in Canada. You may choose to focus on learning or improving either English or French. This will likely depend on which of the two languages most people speak in the area where you live.
Strong English or French language skills are important for many reasons, such as:
- getting a job,
- going to school,
- accessing services,
- helping your children with school work,
- meeting and interacting with people, and
- getting your Canadian citizenship.
If you do not already speak one of Canada’s official languages at an advanced level, you should take steps to improve your French or English as soon as you arrive in Canada.
If you already speak one of Canada’s official languages, you should think about learning the other one. In many parts of Canada, being able to speak both English and French is an advantage for finding a job and participating in your community.
Language skills for work
Even if you have the language skills in English or French needed to immigrate to Canada, those skills may not be strong enough to work in your preferred profession.
Most regulated occupations and trades require you to be fluent in English or French and to have a strong knowledge of all work-related language. Being fluent in a language includes being able to understand phrases or expressions used, some of which may be unique to Canada.
Make sure that you understand the language requirements you must meet to work in your profession. If needed, contact your regulatory body to learn about the type of language proficiency test that will be used in your evaluation or assessment.
You may want to consider taking language classes or looking for bridging programs that offer both language training and work experience.
Take steps to improve your language skills while you are still in your home country.
Permanent residents can take language classes to learn English or French once in Canada. Government-funded classes are offered by the federal, provincial and territorial governments across Canada. You will need to pay for private language classes. Find out more about classes funded by the Government of Canada.
To find information about other language training programs funded by the provinces or territories, visit the website for newcomers of the province or territory in which you live, or ask an organization that helps newcomers in your area.
Registering for taxpayer-funded language classes
Before starting a class, you must first get an assessment to find out your current language skills. Visit a language assessment centre in your city and say that you are interested in taking language classes.
You can do a self-assessment test to find out your current language level before doing a formal language assessment.
To find information about other language training programs funded by the provinces or territories, visit the website for newcomers of the province or territory in which you live. You can also get information on all taxpayer-funded language training programs available to you from a local immigrant-serving organization.
Language proficiency tests and certificates
There are cases in which you may need to prove your ability in either English or French (for example, when you apply for a job or to get into a university or college). There are several language tests that are widely recognized. You will get a certificate of language proficiency that you can use for many purposes.
English language tests and certificates:
- International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
- Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP).
- Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL: commonly required by universities and colleges).
French language tests and certificates:
You can also get information on these tests from some government language assessment centres or from private language schools.
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