Languages for Expats in Canada

Submitted: October 2013

The official languages in Canada are English and French. In the majority of provinces and territories English is most widely spoken. French is the main language in Quebec and certain areas of Ontario, New Brunswick and Manitoba. Official government publications are available in both languages.

An expat is strongly advised to be fluent in at least one of the two languages and to become proficient in the other one as soon as possible after arrival.

The Citizenship and Immigration Canada website provides information about courses and language requirements in Canada and can be found here:

English language courses are widely available via the internet as distance learning projects and can enable individuals to gain the standard necessary for living and working in Canada. A good starting point is the ‘learn English’ website from the British Council: (  Cambridge English, part of Cambridge University (, offers a comprehensive range of language courses designed for beginners, intermediates and those who wish to gain an English language qualification recognised by many businesses.

Another option is to attend an English language school in Canada. Lessons are usually structured not only in a classroom setting but also encompass practical elements such as a variety of social events that include opportunities to talk to native speakers. There are a number of Canadian teaching establishments that offer facilities for English language students. ILAC ( is the International Language Academy in Canada and has partnerships with 55 universities and colleges. The Academy has teaching facilities in Toronto and Vancouver and offers modern classrooms, a wide variety of courses and a number of social events.

The Canadian College of English Language ( is based in Vancouver and offers courses that lead to English certificates and diplomas. It also teaches English for business at varying levels of ability. The college has a specific course for those wishing to study English and then progressing to university studies and has links to a number of universities, including the University of Alberta, the Emily Carr University of Art & Design, and many more.

ILSC Montreal ( offers full-time and part-time French classes. There are also a limited number of evening classes available. Courses focus on teaching conversation and business French as well as reading, writing and listening skills. A number of short courses for particular areas of the language including grammar, conversation and reading are also available. Budding journalists can benefit by taking part in the French journalism class which gives them the opportunity to investigate and write about an issue of their choice while at the same time learning about interviewing skills, page layout and design etc.

It is important that an expat is proficient in either of the two official languages and endeavours to learn the second one as soon as possible. Canada is very proud of its bi-lingual history and steps have been taken to ensure that future generations of Canadians continue to be fluent in both languages. Canadian Parents for French ( is a nationwide group of volunteers that has been growing steadily since its formation in 1977 and is dedicated to ensuring children have the opportunity to learn French as a second language as part of their education. A well-prepared expat with children will therefore have ensured that their offspring will also have received a grounding in one or the other of the two languages.



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