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Skip Navigation LinksImmigration Simcoe > Employer Resources > After You Hire > Improve Language Skills in the Workplace

Improve Language Skills in the Workplace

Language Skills in the Workplace

Effective communication in the workplace is critical to successful business operations. Recognizing and supporting cultural and language differences will help retain new immigrant employees. Most immigrants come to Canada with strong English or French language skills; however, further language training, or minor workplace accommodations, may be required to improve oral and/or written communication. 

Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB)

The Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) are the national standards used in Canada for describing, measuring and recognizing the English-language proficiency of adult immigrants and prospective immigrants for living and working in Canada.

The benchmarks are organized in 12 levels. The benchmarks describe tasks that new comers can do in listening, speaking, reading and writing. If a new comer is new to English she/he may be level 1, 2, 3, or 4.

Many adult ESL programs in Canada use the CLB. Students and teachers use CLB to understand what English/French is needed for daily life in Canada.

To find the CLB level of your employee language test results, see the IRCC language test equivalency charts.

Improve Communication in the Workplace

For simple and cost-effective methods to improve workplace communications, employers can:

  • Review and establish best practices for writing e-mails, reports, memos, and other documents. Best practices may be as simple as using plain language, ensuring instructions are clear, and avoiding extensive use of slang, jargon, idioms, and acronyms.
  • Provide regular check-ins with new immigrant employees to ensure they have full comprehension of expectations, duties, and understanding of the workplace environment.
  • Ensure staff (including senior staff and supervisors) are aware of cultural communication differences and encourage cultural sensitivity training.


Workplace Communication Tip –

Learn about cultural communication preferences

 "Different cultures like to receive information — and trust information they receive from different sources — in different ways."


Language Training

Some employers may wish to offer language training on-site (possibly for a fee), or newcomers can participate in the following language training programs offered in Simcoe County:



Occupation Specific Language TrainingOccupation Specific Language Training<p>​OSLT is a FREE work-orientated language training (180 hours) to help newcomers to Canada improve their workplace communication skills. If someone is internationally-trained or has experience in the field of business or information technology but may be experiencing communication barriers in the workplace, OSLT can help.</p><p>OSLT can help develop the language and communication skills necessary to:</p><ul><li>Understand the workplace culture in an occupation or sector</li><li>Interact clearly and effectively with clients, co-workers and supervisors</li><li>Communicate effectively via email and telephone </li></ul><p>The courses are 180 hours. There are two formats for OSLT course delivery at Georgian College:</p><ul><li>In-class: All 180 hours are delivered in a classroom at Georgian College campus</li><li>A blended, multi-site delivery: These courses are delivered partly in-class (video conferencing with another college) and partly online, usually 25 per cent in class and 75 per cent online.</li></ul><p>*For detailed information on this program, read the <a href="http://co-oslt.org/en/wp-content/uploads/OSLT-Backgrounder-Eng_v5-3.pdf" target="_blank"><span style="text-decoration:underline;"><font color="#0066cc">OSLT Backgrounder</font></span></a>. <br>*For more information about OSLT at Georgian College contact: <a href="mailto:oslt@georgiancollege.ca" target="_blank"><span style="text-decoration:underline;"><font color="#0066cc">oslt@georgiancollege.ca</font></span></a> or call 705-728-1968 ext. 5329.</p>
English (or French) as a Second Language (ESL/FSL)English (or French) as a Second Language (ESL/FSL)<p>ESL or FSL lessons are led by trained instructors in a classroom setting. Students will improve their speaking, listening, reading and writing skills, as well as learn about Canadian culture. Classes range from beginner to advanced levels. The programs are based on the Canadian Language Benchmarks and are provincially-funded. Classes are free for permanent residents, refugees, live-in-caregivers, and Canadian citizens. Fees for visitors to Canada will apply.</p><p><a href="http://www.thelearningcentres.com/" target="_blank">Simcoe County District School Board, Adult and Continuing Education</a> offer ESL classes in Barrie, Bradford, Alliston, Collingwood, Midland, and Orillia.</p>
Language Instruction for NewcomersLanguage Instruction for Newcomers<p>The programs teach language skills to individuals whose first language is not English or French. Training is offered in a classroom setting, and delivered by trained professionals. Students will improve their speaking, listening, reading and writing skills, as well as learn about Canadian culture. These programs are federally-funded and available only to eligible newcomers. Child-care may be offered to eligible participants in some locations. There may also be opportunities to take the courses online. </p><p>French language classes are also available for adults who are interested in learning, or improving their French, however, some of these may require additional fees.</p><p><a href="http://www.bradfordimmigrant.ca/" target="_blank">Bradford & Community Services (BICS)</a> as well as the <a href="https://ymcaofsimcoemuskoka.ca/immigrant-services/" target="_blank">YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka</a> offer the programs in the County</p>
Conversation CirclesConversation Circles<p>Conversation Circles focus on learning "conversational English/French." They provide an opportunity to meet other newcomers in the area and practice English/French in an informal, comfortable setting. They are often guided by a trained professional.</p><p><a href="https://www.simcoe.ca/Library/Pages/Consortium-Members.aspx" target="_blank">Click here to contact your local library</a> for more information</p>
Home StudyHome Study<p>​Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) Home Study is a free English language training program for permanent residents of Canada who cannot attend regular classes. Students study online or by correspondence, and work with a certified teacher each week (Teach English as a Second Language (TESL) certified). This program is funded by Citizenship & Immigration Canada and is delivered by the Centre for Education & Training through LEAD (Language Education at a Distance). For more information visit: <a href="https://www.linchomestudy.ca/Online/" target="_blank"><span style="text-decoration:underline;"><font color="#0066cc">LINCHomeStudy.ca/online</font></span></a></p>

Improve Your Workplace English

For employers and internationally-trained professionals who need help with their English language and workplace culture skills.


For locations and contact information, see the full listing of Language training programs for adults from the Simcoe County Immigration Portal.


Language Skills Tip – Access Library Resources

Local libraries have great, free resources to assist in learning a new language or enhancing language skills – useful for both employees and employers to communicate more effectively in the workplace.

Check out a location nearest you for a complete list of books, audio tapes, or DVDs. For a listing of libraries in Simcoe County, click here.


Assessing Language Skills:

Coordinated Language Assessment and Referral System (CLARS) The purpose of CLARS is to conduct a free assessment of the readiness and proficiency level of an adult immigrant learner in order to place the learner in an appropriate language training class, whether in a federally-funded CIC program or a provincially-funded MCI program.

CLARS assessment centres screen clients for eligibility and provide language assessment and referral services for newcomers to Canada.

To find an assessment centre nearest you contact the: Centre for Education and Training.


Free on-line language training:

Employees can also choose to access language training and ESL course material online. The following websites offer free English/French language training and skill development:

Mango languages. Available at your local library




From Human Resources and Skills Development Canada - this workbook includes 24 lessons with a variety of exercises to learn new words commonly used in the Canadian workplace.

Order copies or view online by clicking here.