If you want to immigrate to Canada or are a permanent resident and wish to apply for Canadian citizenship, you need strong language skills in either French or English, which are the two official languages of Canada. You will need to pass an approved language test in order to qualify to immigrate under Express Entry and most other programs. You will also need to pass a test as part of your Canadian citizenship application process. After you submit your Canadian citizenship application, you will be tested either in writing or in an interview.
There are also additional advantages to working on your language skills before and after arriving in Canada. If you speak English or French, you will more easily be able to access social and other services and be better able to integrate into the culture. You will qualify for better-quality jobs if you speak French or English and you will have an easier time taking care of tasks such as shopping, socializing, and other everyday concerns if you can communicate with other Canadians.
Learning the Language as an Immigrant or Canadian Citizenship Applicant
If you come to Canada or are considering immigrating to Canada and wish to update your language skills, you will want to:
1) Understand your language needs
While English and French are both official languages in Canada, their use varies. In Quebec and parts of New Brunswick, French may be spoken more often. In most other areas of the country, English is spoken by most of the population. If you wish to work in some jobs, you will need to have fluency in both languages. Consider where you will be moving to determine which language(s) you need.
2) Determine whether you already meet the requirements for English or French proficiency
To qualify for Canadian citizenship, you must meet Canadian Language Benchmarks Level 4 (CLB 4) at a minimum in both listening and speaking. These requirements apply to all applicants between the ages of 18 and 54.
When you apply for citizenship, you can prove you have adequate knowledge of French or English by submitting passing grades from the Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (the CELPIP General or the CELPIP General-LS: listening and speaking version), the International English Language, the Testing System General training (IELTS – General), the Test d’Évaluation de Français (TEF), the Test d’Évaluation de Français (TEFAQ), the TEF pour la naturalisation (listening and speaking version), Diplôme approfondi de langue française (DALF), the Diplôme d’études en langue française (DELF), the Test de connaissance du français (TCF), and the Test de connaissance du français pour le Québec (TCFQ). No other third-party tests are accepted. The government has a website to test whether you have the required proof of language ability.
3) Test yourself on your language skills
If you do not have the needed proof to show you are proficient in French or English, you may need to take classes and work on your skills. Before you do so, it can be useful to determine how advanced your listening and speaking abilities are. You can test yourself online.
4) Sign up for French or English classes
The government pays for language classes for newcomers, including protected persons and permanent residents. These classes are called Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) and Cours de langue pour les immigrants au Canada (CLIC). Sign up for one of these classes, since they are at no cost and are especially designed for those who are learning English or French as newcomers for immigration or citizenship.
In addition to taking the LINC or CLIC classes, you may wish to accelerate your learning with additional instruction. Libraries have tape and online language programs you can use at no charge and there are often casual conversation meetups as well as other free and low-cost options to learn French and English.
5) Work with an organization serving newcomers
The government of Canada has a list of organizations helping newcomers, and these organizations can help you find language classes in your area and can also evaluate your language skills.
6) Focus on job-related language skills
Your field has specialized language and vocabulary you will need for your career. Make sure you focus on terminology and language related to your job.
7) Immerse yourself as much as possible
You will learn French or English more if you surround yourself with the language and work at it every day. You can do this if you:
- Carry flashcards with you to practice your vocabulary
- Read English or French newspapers and magazines, especially Canadian content. You will learn about Canadian culture and politics while you work on your language skills.
- Attempt to speak in English and French, even if you’re still learning.
- Listen to the radio, audiobooks, or podcasts in French or English to improve your skills. You can start with content created for children since it will be simpler to understand and work your way up to content designed for adults as you improve.
- Watch movies and TV shows in English and French, with the subtitles on so you can follow along with the words on the screen.
Would You Like to Immigrate to Canada?
The Canadian citizenship process starts with permanent residency. Whether you are seeking to come to Canada for the first time or want to apply for citizenship, Immigration direct has a number of resources to help you, including kits to help you apply for your PR card and a free blog which helps you practice your English as you learn more about the immigration process.