Federally, Canadian communications are available in English (there are some subtle differences between American, British and Canadian English) and French. This changes provincially, as each province has regulations regarding its official language. An obvious example is Quebec, whose official language is French. The only officially bilingual province in Canada is New Brunswick.
Some native languages, which predate English and French being spoken in Canada, are still in use today. These include, Cree, Inuktitut and Ojibway.
Over the years many immigrants have settled in Canada, consequently there are communities across the country in which Greek, Italian, Portuguese and so on are the dominant language.
Some employers/educational institutions may require you to have one of the following language certificates:
CPE – Certificate of Proficiency in English: This is a very advanced level exam and is offered by the University of Cambridge. Passing this test indicates that the student has reached a standard of English comparable with that of an educated native speaker. Similarly, the University of Cambridge also offers CAE – Certificate of Advanced English. This qualification indicates that the student has the capabilities needed to participate in social, professional, and higher education based situations.
DELF/DALF - Diplôme d’Études en Langue Française / Diplôme Approfondi de Langue Française. This qualification is a French language certification test available in over 130 countires and offered by the French Ministry of Education.
IELTS – International English Language Testing System: This exam can be taken in over 100 countries at British Council. You score from 1 to 9 and most universities expect a score of at least 6. www.ielts.org
TEF – Test d’Evaluation de Français: A certificate delivered by the Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie de Paris. This is internationally recognized by business and educational institutions.
TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language: Either computer-based or paper-based, depending on computer availability. The former is available in most parts of the world, whilst the latter is for countries where access to computers is limited. Most universities expect a score of at least 550 from their applicants. www.ets.org/toefl
Learning a Language
Language academies teaching a host of different languages can be found in the majority of large Canadian cities. If you want to learn French or English you will often find the price of doing so is lower than in most other Western countries. If you want, or need, to learn your new language rapidly than attending a language school or arranging private lessons are probably the best options. They also offer the option of evening sessions which is good for those with a rigid schedule. Private lessons can be very costly, so ask around for a reasonably priced but accredited teacher. Look in the local paper and on the notice boards of schools and universities in the area.
If you want to learn the French or English before arriving in Canada (and this is advisable) then DVD’s, language forums, private lessons and translation guides can all be helpful. If you begin to mix with Canadian residents you will find your language skills improving. Engage people in conversation as frequently as you can and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Watching films or television in the language you are trying to learn can also be a really useful exercise.
If you plan to study in Canada there are language schools which have a program geared towards receiving an internationally recognized language certification – like the TESL.
Learning a language can be hard work, but ultimately can be very rewarding and really help you to feel at home in a new land. As with all things you get out what you put in, be prepared to commit time and energy!