Work: Speak the Language of Your Workplace

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By Gilda Spitz

Are you looking for work in Toronto, hoping to take advantage of your hard-earned education from your home country? Or are you applying to a college or university in Canada? Are you concerned that your knowledge of the English language isn’t quite strong enough?
You are probably considering taking a course in English as a Second Language (ESL), right? Great idea, of course. But you may want to consider a particular kind of ESL class that helps you prepare for your field of work (sector), called Sector-Specific ESL.

George Brown, The Toronto City College, offers sector-specific ESL classes in three sectors: Business, Nursing, and Technology. More sectors are planned for the near future.

Lorraine Trotter, Director of the Access Centre of Excellence, is responsible for sector-specific ESL classes at George Brown College. She says that, even for many immigrants who already speak some English, “it is challenging to find work in the job for which you were trained in your home country.” Sector-specific ESL provides “language training at higher levels for folks who are destined for the workplace.”

These classes provide help with the special vocabulary you need to know. For example, if you were trained as a nurse in your home country, you need to know the names of medications in English. If you are skilled in a construction trade, you need to know the English names of tools.

In addition, sector-specific classes also provide examples and scenarios in the classroom, similar to actual situations on the job. You can practice your new vocabulary in the classroom, before you have to use it outside. “People acquire language more quickly when you give them real-life scenarios of deep interest,” Trotter explains.
Here’s how it works.

At George Brown College, ESL classes are normally provided in eight levels, ranging from Level 1, designed for beginners, up to Level 8, whose graduates meet college English admission requirements. Sector-specific ESL classes are designed for students who are ready for Levels 7 and 8. Instead of a regular ESL class, you can take a sector-specific class instead.

Sector-specific classes are offered by many colleges in the Toronto area. Trotter states that the sector-specific classes at George Brown have been particularly successful because the college offers so many other courses, in addition to ESL. By working hand-in-hand with other instructors who teach the regular courses in business, nursing, and technology, the ESL instructors make sure they are teaching what you need to know.

In addition to providing workplace help, sector-specific ESL classes are also ideal for ESL students who plan to attend college or university. Joan Reynolds, Chair of Language Studies in the Access Centre of Excellence at George Brown College, says that “often students meet college requirements regarding content knowledge, but their communication skills are weak.” These students can attend a sector-specific class to improve their English proficiency before starting post-secondary studies.

In short, if you already have some English skills, and you’re planning to look for work or attend college, sector-specific ESL classes may be the ideal solution for you. As Reynolds explains, “Canada has long provided language training for immigrants, but newcomers need more than ‘Basic Survival English’ to take advantage of their professional training.”

For more information on sector-specific ESL classes, check with the many organizations in the Toronto area that provide Enhanced Language Training (ELT) courses, such as the Toronto District School Board and Centro Organizzativo Scuole Tecniche Italiane (COSTI). For George Brown College, contact Joan Reynolds at 416-415-5000 ext. 6675, or by email at jreynold@gbrownc.on.ca.

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