Language learning is an activity most Canadians take for granted: living in a bilingual country means we are constantly exposed to French and English, and it’s mandatory for kids to start learning French and English at a young age. It’s actually not uncommon for Canadians to speak two or more languages - many of us speak a heritage language learned natively in our home countries or from our immigrant parents and grandparents. Canada’s multilingual and diverse population has made it an incredibly great place to learn a new language - we speak about 200 languages, and proudly organize schools and classes across the country with the aim of making Canadians more multilingual.
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So why are Canadians so motivated to learn new languages? The first answer is that we have two official languages, deeply incentivizing the acquisition of French. English speaking provinces have made French an essential part of the school curriculum, and you can find French schools and immersion classes in nearly every Canadian city. The government of Quebec is deeply committed to promoting French, with policies in place that make it easy for residents to learn French.
Beyond French, Canadians can take the opportunity to learn and speak a variety of world languages in private schools, colleges, and university. There are numerous reasons so many Canadians choose to become multilingual: ease of travel, job opportunities, a desire to connect to one’s roots, to join a larger community, and of course, many parents want their children to speak their heritage language. Some simply love learning a new language - once you learn one, it becomes even easier to acquire the next.
In any case, Canada remains a top place to learn international languages because of the numerous opportunities to learn in nearly every major city. This blog explores learning new languages in Canada: tips, tools and reasons for learning, and where to take language classes in four of Canada’s major cities. Let’s get started - we will do our best to convince you to start learning a new language today!
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Why Should You Learn a New Language?
With English spoken so widely around the world, English-speaking Canadians would seem to have little incentive to go to the trouble of learning a new language. The truth, however, is that speaking a new language can bring so many benefits to your career and personal life. Here are some of the top reasons to learn a new language.
1. Travel Like a Pro
Canadians have a passport that grant easy tourist access in so many countries around the world: you can find Canadian tourists at nearly every tourist destination. Learning the language of the countries or regions you visit frequently can lead to so many travel perks: you’ll be able to communicate better with drivers, servers, bartenders, and shopkeepers, and you can speak to locals and meet new friends with ease. When you speak the language of the country you are touring, you will feel safer and less vulnerable, as you will be more aware of your surroundings and navigate transit and streets without worrying about misunderstanding a sign.
2. Create New Economic Opportunities
Knowing a language other than English is an asset that is valued by many employers. Canada is a bilingual country, and there are many jobs available for people proficient in both French and English. If you want to work in areas like tourism, banking, education, public service, or the arts, showing you have another language on your resume can give you and edge over other candidates. Use your polyglot skills to connect with clients at home and abroad, teach children, translate requests, and help others.
3. Learn More About Your Heritage
As students of Canadian history know, we are country of settlers comprised of people that have arrived from all over the world, with the exception of Indigenous communities. Whether you are a first generation immigrant or a 5th generation descendant, many of us have a heritage connected to a language other than English. What better way to connect with your roots than to learn the language of your ancestors? When you speak your heritage language, you can communicate with relatives abroad, elders, and develop a deeper sense of cultural identity.
There are many more reasons to learn a new language: prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s, meet new people, just to name a few. When you do start on your learning journey, make sure you follow our tips for becoming multilingual.
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Tips for Becoming Multilingual
If you’ve made the decision to embark on a study of a new language, you’ll want to know what you’ll need to do to be successful. What can you expect from your new class? How can you practice if you don’t know anyone else that speaks the language? Which strategies can you use to learn a language quickly? Here’s some tips for learning a new language.
Know What to Expect in Your Classes
It’s good to know what you can expect when you start a new course, whether you are in the beginning or advanced stages of learning. Beginner courses will typically teach you basic greetings, commonly used vocabulary, and simple verb conjugations. In this stage, you will see the rewards quickly: after all, you are starting from zero proficiency to knowing how to start a conversation, which is incredibly exciting. Intermediate stages of learning tend to be more challenging: you may find yourself hitting a wall as the verbs, pronouns, and sentence constructions get more complex. In the advanced stages, you may find yourself reading a piece of literature - while this can be challenging, push through it and do what it takes to keep up. Depending on how often you can immerse yourself in the language you are learning, you may find yourself constantly reviewing the concepts learned in intermediate and advanced classes. This is where using additional resources can be critical.
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Supplement Your Studies with Workbooks and Media
When class gets challenging, or you are between courses, supplementing your studies with workbooks and media can be critical. Language learning workbooks are an easy, low-tech way to maintain and practice using vocabulary and conjugating verbs. Depending on the language you are studying, you can easily find books that help you in a specific area of grammar or provide reading practice.
In addition to workbooks, you will find it entertaining and helpful to regularly consume media in the language you are learning - think podcasts, videos, TV shows, movies, and music. Try an audiobook or a podcast when you are driving, play music when you are exercising and walking to get in the habit of identifying new and unfamiliar words.
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Commit to a Study Routine
Consistency is the key to results when it comes to mastering a new language. Get the most from your classes and pick up a new language quickly by setting aside an hour everyday to complete homework or practice. If you are tired, try using an app like Duolingo or Busuu to keep your learning routine stimulating. If possible, create a pleasant study space in your home where you can be free of distractions, or mix things up by working in a chic cafe with a latte and some treats. When you look forward to practicing and studying, good results are sure to follow.
Learning New Languages in Canada’s Major Cities
As we mentioned earlier, Canada is one of the best countries to learn world languages thanks to its multicultural population. You will not only find native speakers of over 200 languages in major Canadian cities, you will also find amazing schools, authentic international cuisine, and neighbourhoods that will have you feeling like you are in another country. Let’s find out about learning in the cities of Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, and Edmonton.
Where to Learn a New Language in Toronto
Toronto is a bustling, diverse metropolis that boasts vibrant neighbourhoods in which you will hear the sounds of hundreds of languages. Italian businesses are prominent in the St. Clair West neighbourhoods and Little Italy; the northern suburb of Vaughan is home to a large Italian community. If East Asian languages are your thing, you will find plenty of cultural inspiration in the city’s own K-Town and Chinatown. Spanish learners will also find a plethora of South and Central American restaurants on St. Clair West or in Kensington Market. Students of Hindi, Urdu, or Arabic will find plenty of speakers in the greater Toronto areas of Peel. Whatever linguistic community you are looking for, you will find. Toronto has residents that speak Hungarian, Bulgarian, French, Illocano, Farsi, Dutch, Malayalam, Hebrew and Ojibway….just to name a few.
Choosing a school will likely come down to your location in the city. For a central location, check out the University of Toronto and Ryerson for language courses that can lead to a degree. Both schools also have large continuing education programs where you can find plenty of language courses you can put toward a certificate. Humber and Sheridan colleges also offer language programs at affordable prices, and you can also look into private schools and institutes like the Berlitz, Spanish Centre, and Alliance Francaise.
The Best Language Classes in Montreal
Beautiful Montreal, with its massive French-speaking population and multicultural energy, is the perfect place to learn a new language. Here you’ll find an international, cosmopolitan city with French flair, an exciting nightlife, and laid back vibes. Like Toronto, Montreal has a super diverse population of people hailing from Francophone countries all over the world like France, Haiti, Morocco, and Algeria.
Montreal is home to renowned colleges and universities that offer courses and degree programs that will make you a career polyglot. Visit McGill University’s website to see courses in languages like Chinese, Japanese, Greek, Persian, Urdu, and Russian. You’ll also find language courses in institutions like Vanier College, Concordia, the University of Montreal, the University of Quebec, and Lavalle. Many of these schools also have continuing education programs designed for adults already working full time.
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How to Learn a New Language in Vancouver
Vancouver, Canada’s major West Coast City, is a gorgeous spectacle of glass skyscrapers mirroring the Pacific Ocean and the Western Cordillera. Home to a sizeable East Asian population, Vancouver is a great option for immersing yourself in world cultures without even leaving Canada. Explore the city’s famed night market for delicious Asian foods, or eat some of the best sushi in the country at various Japanese restaurants. Vancouver’s multiculturalism doesn’t stop there: you will also find a bustling Punjabi Market and a celebrated Little Italy neighbourhood where you can embark on new culinary and cultural adventures.
Vancouver has many private language schools, colleges, and universities you can choose from to start your language learning journey. Check out schools like the Vancouver Mandarin School, the Alliance Francaise, or International House for classes that will suit recreational learners. The city also has some of the top universities and colleges in the country. Vancouver Community College has classes in Arabic, Japanese, French, German and Chinese. The University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University has even more for those looking to complete a degree in French, Spanish, Japanese, Korean and Chinese.
Becoming a Polyglot in Edmonton
Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, may surprise you as a choice to learn a new language. Located in Central Canada, Edmonton has plenty of cultural diversity with a wild western twist. Students will love the city’s proximity to natural gems like Elk Island National Park, as well as its Heritage Festival, which celebrates Edmonton’s many cultural communities.
Students of world languages will be pleased to find a trove of private language schools and institutes: find your place in the German Language School of Edmonton, the Alliance Francaise,, the Russian Language and Culture Education Society of Alberta, the Edmonton Hispanic Bilingual Association, the Edmonton Chinese School, and the Kiswahili learning centre. As with other Canadian cities, you will also find universities with international language programs. Concordia University of Edmonton and the University of Alberta have courses in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Latin and Spanish.
Learn With a Private Tutor
One option that is often overlooked is learning a language with the help of a private tutor or teacher. A private tutor can meet you at flexible times, perfect for those with a busy schedule. They are typically native speakers that can give you valuable, authentic conversation practice: important if your goal is to improve your automaticity when speaking. A private tutor can help you master complex verbs, learn new vocabulary, or introduce you to local slang. They can prepare you for a big exam or test, refresh your knowledge after a break in learning, or get you prepped for a big holiday. If you’ve got kids in French Immersion or want your children to learn their heritage language, a tutor is perfect and may even be able to take a small group if you want to pair up with another family.
Superprof has listings of local language tutors near you - check out the site to find a teacher that will work for you!