What different kinds of ESL programs are available?

English as a Second Language (ESL) programs are designed for specific skill levels, groups of learners, and specific purposes.

There are many different kinds of ESL programs. They are designed for people with different goals and levels of English. Before you sign up for a language program, make sure it is the right one for you. Find out what type of program it is and if you have to pay a fee. Some of the programs have eligibility requirements related to residency in Canada and immigration status.

Here are some examples:

  • Enhanced Language Training (ELT) - Programs that provide job-specific, advanced level English training to adults. ELT is particularly useful for internationally-trained professionals.
  • English linked skills programs - Classes that help learners develop English language skills while learning other business or technical skills, such as typing or computer skills.
  • English literacy development (ELD) programs - Classes for people who speak a language other than English and do not read or write very well in any language. Literacy classes help to improve reading, writing and basic math skills in English.
  • English for special needs programs - Classes that accommodate learners' emotional, physical and/or developmental needs.
  • English for special purposes programs - Classes that focus on language skills related to specific areas of interest (for example, workplace, or academic reading and writing).
  • Job preparation programs - Programs that provide ESL training for those getting ready for a job.
  • Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) - A program offered at no cost to eligible adult learners by the Government of Canada.
  • Occupation-specific Language Training (OSLT) - Free courses for eligible internationally-trained professionals and tradespeople at Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) level 6-8 to improve communications skills for work. Offered at 14 colleges.
  • Test preparation classes - Classes that help you prepare for certain English ability tests, such as TOEFL or IELTS.

Please note our ESL tool is currently being updated. We apologize for any inconvenience



There are also Private ESL programs. These are usually offered at language schools, colleges or universities. They are mainly focused towards visitors to Canada and international students. Typically, there are fees for these programs.

Many community agencies can help you find ESL classes. To find help, go to Services Near Me and search for "English classes" in your area.

For More Information

  • ESL Search - A search tool that you can use to find ESL classes in your area. From the Ontario Immigration website.
  • College Language Training Programs - A list of colleges in Ontario that have English or French language training programs. From the Ontario Immigration website.
  • Local School Boards - A list of local school boards in Ontario. Produced by the Ontario Ministry of Education.
Last updated: December 10, 2015 4001176