In Citizenship

English Language skills

Mary Keyork
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My English language skills are not strong but I want to apply for permanent residence. What can I do?

If you are interested in moving to Canada, or applying for permanent residence, it is important to have skills in English or French (or both)! Many permanent residence application categories require you to demonstrate that you can speak, read, write and understand either French or English at a level that will allow you to work in Canada and integrate into the community.
First, it is important to understand your goal. For Canadian immigration, the accepted English and French language tests are:
English: CELPIP (Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System)
French: TEF (Test d’évaluation de français)
These tests all have listening, speaking, writing and comprehension components, so make sure you prepare all areas when you are brushing up on your language skills.
How can you improve?
Take a course – since you will be tested on speaking, understanding and writing in your test, we recommend taking an in-person class where you will get to practice speaking and have the opportunity to have a teacher help you.
If you cannot attend in-person classes, some online or self-study language programs can also be useful. If you are going to study alone, try focusing on your weakest area and pick the study guide or program that matches what you need.
Get a language buddy – lots of people want to learn, or practice, another language. If you need help with English but are fluent in another language, find someone to pair up with. They can help you with your English reading and speaking while you help them with to learn your language and improve their vocabulary and pronunciation.

Do some practice tests – if you are not sure where to improve, it might be a good idea to take a practice test. You might be able to find practice material through an in-person language institute, a self-study book or program or online. Once you have take a practice exam, you will know your strengths and weaknesses and can spend your time studying up in the areas where you need to improve.

Read English or French books – if you have basic skills but want to improve, reading books written in French or English can help you. It is a good way to practice reading and comprehension skills. If you read aloud, you can also improve your pronunciation. There is no shame in starting with books for children or young adults and working your way up to adult reading when you are more comfortable.

Read English or French newspapers or magazines – just like books, newspapers and magazines are a great way to improve your reading comprehension and keep up with relevant news and issues.

Watch English or French television and movies –watching television shows, movies and listening to music in French or English can help you improve your language skills, especially your listening comprehension. You will become familiar with common terms, phrases and pronunciation. Listening to music in another language can help your brain adjust to the different pronunciation as well, which may make it easier when you are practicing speaking and reading.

Consider a language app – there are some excellent apps available on a variety of platforms, including mobile devices, tablets and computers. Check out the relevant app store to see if any of these systems is right for you.

Start a vocabulary book – start to write down words and phrases as you learn them and refer back to it often in order to refresh your memory.

Practice, practice, practice – it is important to practice consistently. As we age, it becomes more difficult for our brains to grasp a new language. Practicing every day and immersing yourself in the language can help your brain adjust and pick up the new words and sounds. Tell people in your life that you are trying to learn French or English – if they know the language too, they can help by only speaking to you in that language, instead of your native tongue.

Don’t forget – everyone has their own learning pace. We suggest identifying your goals, the areas where you need to improve and not giving up. Do not be afraid to make mistakes. They will help you succeed!

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