Toronto is one of the best cities in the world to study international languages. For starters, it has a massive multicultural population, phenomenal restaurants featuring cuisine from a numerous countries and regions, and a plethora of schools and institutes you can learn literally any language. More than half of the city’s population was born outside the country: a drive in and outside the Greater Toronto Area reveals vibrant ethnocultural enclaves with their own respective shops and restaurants. Add a buzzing nightlife, a bustling economy, exciting sports teams, and a dramatic skyline - and you have the perfect place to learn a new language and culture without leaving North America.
What makes Toronto so special? The city has a vibrant Italian community with restaurants concentrated in areas like College Street, St. Clair, and Little Italy. Students learning East Asian Languages will find plenty of Japanese, Korean, and Chinese eateries in North Toronto, Mississauga and the city’s own K-Town and Chinatown. Head to Brampton or Little India for authentic Indian food. Whatever language you want to practice, you can find plenty of native speakers in Toronto. Residents speak Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Arabic, French, Spanish, Tagalog, Illocano, Farsi, Dutch, Korean, Malayalam, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Italian, German, Serbian, Croatian, Ukrainian, Swahili, Khmer, Hebrew, Ojibway...and dozens more.
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Learning a new language in Toronto means having access to people and resources that can enable you to achieve your goals, be it fluency, business proficiency, or simply enough vocabulary to get through a vacation. You can find boutique schools and cultural institutes like Spanish Centre, Alliance Francaise, Berlitz or The Toronto Chinese Academy - just to name a few. Toronto’s many universities, colleges, and school boards also offer international language classes for students of all ages and levels. Of course, you can also look into getting a private instructor or tutor.
This blog explores language learning in Toronto: why you should do it, what to expect, and where to find the best classes. You will learn everything you need to get started in a new language in Toronto today!
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Why Learn a New Language?
With so many reasons to learn a new language, it is shocking that so many Canadians choose to stick with what they know. Proficiency in a second or third language is an asset - companies value multilingual staff, especially when it can help you communicate with clients and customers. In Canada, the demand for French speakers tends to be high in areas like education, government or customer service: learn French, and you will find yourself with plenty of opportunities for employment.
Second language skills can also be handy if you travel for pleasure or work: you will find it much easier to navigate new cities if you can communicate with everyone around you and read the signs. Language learning also keeps our cognitive abilities sharp as we memorize new words and language patterns and apply them in listening or conversation. Finally, learning the language of your ancestors can bring you closer to your family and strengthen your sense of cultural identity. You can truly enrich your life when you can communicate with grandparents and relatives abroad - who knows, maybe you will use your language skills to travel to your home country one day!
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What to Expect in a Language Class
Once you have made a commitment to a language class, you can expect to be busy and possibly even a little stressed from all the new learning. If you are starting from a beginner level, you will likely start out learning the basics: alphabet, common phrases, colours, numbers, and simple verb conjugations. Intermediate level classes will focus on language in a more diverse range of scenarios, as well as the more complex verb conjugations and nouns. In advanced level courses, you may find yourself reading literature, continuing verb practice, and engaging in higher level conversation and grammar.
Get as much practice as you can in class by participating orally and doing all of your homework. You’ll also want to expose yourself to movies, TV shows, and music in the target language so you can immerse yourself fully. With languages, the more you practice and listen, the faster you will gain proficiency.
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Where To Take International Language Classes in Toronto
Toronto is Canada’s most populous city, and you will find a plethora of places you can learn international languages. Choose depending on your goal and needs: smaller, boutique schools are great for recreational learning, while colleges and universities are better suited for those looking to gain certification or a more comprehensive knowledge of the language. Let’s take a look at the options!
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Public and Private Schools
Local school boards are an excellent and cost-efficient way to learn a new language. The Toronto and Toronto Catholic District School Boards offer international language programs for kids and adults that cater to the city’s ethnocultural communities. Learn Ukrainian, Italian, Mandarin, Tagalog, Serbian, Hindi, Arabic, and so many more options in a variety of locations across the city.
You can also find private boutique schools and cultural institutes in the city where you can learn languages. Schools like Berlitz, the Alliance Francaise, Spanish Centre, Hansa, St. Vladimir Institute and Toronto Mandarin School are just a small sampling of schools offering language courses. Classes are often smaller and you’ll also have access to special cultural events around the school.
Colleges and Universities
The Toronto area is home to world-class universities and colleges offering international language classes for students. It’s important to note that universities and colleges have specific enrolment dates and application deadlines, so be sure to check their admissions websites for more information.
The University of Toronto, located downtown, has undergraduate programs in French, East Asian Studies, Spanish, Italian, Slavic Studies, and Arabic Studies, where students can take language courses that can be counted towards a degree. Similarly, York University offers degree credit courses in many international languages, and boasts a renowned faculty of Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics. If you are looking for non-degree credits, The University of Toronto, York, and Ryerson have Continuing Studies courses in a variety of languages.
For a lower priced and high quality options, have a look at schools like George Brown College and Sheridan College for their college level courses. You can take these courses on their own, or put them toward a diploma or certificate.
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If following a class schedule is too much commitment for your busy schedule, or you are looking for extra help for your language learning, be sure to explore the option of hiring a private tutor. Private tutors are often native speakers of the language you are learning. They can help you boost your conversational skills - live interaction is critical for gaining speaking skills - or help you through the finer points of grammar, verb conjugation, and alphabets or scripts. You can arrange to see them for as often or as little as it makes sense for you, though regular practice is encouraged if you are looking to build your language skills quickly.
The Benefits of Learning a Language
Learning a new language brings so many benefits: you’ll keep your mind sharp, be able to communicate with new people, travel easier, and experience a culture in an authentic way.
While you’re learning, don’t forget to watch foreign films, listen to world music, and follow social media influencers from around the world. Immersing yourself in music and video in the target language for part of your day or week will help you to stay connected, especially if you can’t find the time to join a meetup group or take a native speaking relative or friend out for coffee or dinner. Your classes won’t last forever, so you’ll have to practice independently to continue reaping the benefits of language learning.
Get started in learning a new language today!