Many groups are responding generously to the call to sponsor Syrian refugees. This is wonderful because these people will need this support, guidance and friendship for many years. CESLM can help with this process because we have a wealth of experience and resources to offer.

All refugees will be eligible for free LINC classes, unless they are already fluent in English, but many will have to wait for spaces in English classes to open up. In the meantime, we want to start helping people with their English so they can start to interact with Canadian society. As they see their English improve, they’ll feel that they are finally making progress and moving ahead with their lives. Sometimes the psychological benefits of starting English are as important as the practical ones.

For beginners with limited English, you can’t beat the Oxford Picture Dictionary, Canadian edition. You can order them—and the workbooks—at any Chapters store. Each page covers basic topics and offers good sample questions and activities at the bottom. One page would be adequate for a single lesson. The workbook has good exercises for those who can already read at a basic level. At this level we need to remember that repetition and practice are vital. We always underestimate how often we need to hear and use a new word. Encouragement and affirmation are our most important tools with beginners!

Newcomers with higher levels of English have a wealth of resources. Easy newspapers like Metro are great for developing reading competency and acquainting them with issues important to Calgarians. Newcomers are typically concerned with getting a job, so much of our conversation and vocabulary can relate to job seeking. There are many free booklets with wonderful resources such as The Job Seekers Handbook and Working in Alberta which are available from and local libraries. These booklets provide lots of online resources too. How to find a Job in Canada by Dale Sproule (Oxford) is a comprehensive resource for the advanced job seeker.

Some foreign trained and educated individuals may need further upgrading to enter Canadian workplaces and professions. While they may have education, they might need help with Canadian education expectations of group work, oral presentations and research papers. They may be accustomed to more emphasis on tests and exams, and less on original critical thinking.

I think it’s best if newcomers can meet in a group for their English practice. It is good to feel part of a community who are in the same position. We, at CESLM, offer a list of church-based ESL Programs on our website. We also offer a downloadable pdf of the program list which can be printed out (see program pages for a link to download). We do not teach the ESL classes ourselves, but we offer the list as a service.


Photo of Dale FisherDale Fisher