English and French are Canada's two official languages. Canadian English is unique in that it has a blend of American and British influences and Canadian French is unique to European French. About 58% of people in Canada speak English as a first language and 22% speak French as a first language. Despite the dual languages, it is estimated that 69% of Canadians cannot speak French, and 64% of Québecois cannot speak English.
Québec is the only province that is majority francophone with about 84% speaking French as a dominant language. Québec's language laws impose restrictions on outdoor signs in languages other than French, so there are few signs in English. As a major tourist destination, Montréal provides more dual signage.
When applying for a work or study permit, residency, or a number of other applications, proof of language proficiency may be required. Language assessment test centers most be certified by the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). Contact the LINC assessment centre near you. CIC designated language assessment agencies include IELTS (English), CELPIP (English), and TEF (French). Students are responsible for all language assessment costs. Assessment fees vary between $160 and $250 CAD.
The Government of Canada provides a free online self-assessment tool for English and French. This can help determine your level of skill.
Speaking the dominant local language is an important step to integrating into a new culture. There are full-time and part-time courses to fit your schedule. Most offer sample lessons or let you sit-in for free before signing up. Shop around before choosing to find a tuition and format that suits you.
The Government of Canada offers free language training to all qualified adult permanent residents. Cours de langue pour les immigrants au Canada (CLIC) in Québec, and LINC in English speaking Canada, offers full- and part-time classes. Some centers even supply child care. There can be a waiting list to enter the LINC program, but centres can refer you to other facilities.
Private language schools are often more expensive, but they may offer more course options and you can enroll right away. Look for accredited schools with good reputations on sites like LanguagesCanada.ca and LangCanada.ca. Ask friends and other immigrants for recommendations and read school's testimonials before enrolling.
Private lessons are another option. More expensive than language courses, these can be very effective. Expect to pay between $10 to 20 per hour depending on the tutor's qualifications and experience.
You can search for opportunities in a local newspapers, on message boards at pubs, copy centers, supermarkets, universities, and cafes, or on online boards such as EasyExpat's . You can also find friends on the forum to work on language exchange.
An exchange partner is an excellent resource for practicing a new language with a native speaker. As an added bonus, language exchange partners can help you understand the culture of the area and inform you of local happenings. Questions about gift giving, festivals, nightlife, and greetings can be addressed without worry. In the best case sceneries, an exchange partner is not only your ambassador, but a friend. Find a tandem partner through EasyExpat's Language Swap/Lessons Montréal.
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