What different kinds of ESL programs are available?

There are many different kinds of English programs designed for people with different goals and levels of English.

You can take a free online test to learn more about the type of language training you might need in English or French.

Types of Programs

Language learning programs are for specific skill levels and groups of learners, often for particular purposes.

Literacy Development

Employment Specific

  • Enhanced Language Training (ELT) programs provide job-specific, advanced-level English training to adults and are particularly useful for internationally-trained professionals.
  • Job preparation programs provide ESL training for those getting ready for a job.
  • 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. They are available at several Ontario colleges.

Special Programs

  • Programs that focus on language skills related to specific areas of interest, like conversational English
  • Classes that help learners develop English language skills while learning other technical skills, such as typing or computer literacy skills
  • Citizenship Classes focus on the content of the study guide and help prepare you to take your citizenship test.
  • You may be eligible for free adult high school language, reading, writing and other courses to help you get your high school diploma.
  • Classes that help you prepare for specific English ability tests, such as TOEFL or IELTS or other exams.

Things to Consider

Before you register and enroll in a language program, ensure it is right for you and will meet your needs. Some free or low-cost programs have specific eligibility requirements related to residency and immigration status.


The LINC programs offer childminding programs for toddler and preschool children on-site to ensure accessibility for all eligible language learners. Early Childhood Teachers provide childminding services, but they are different from daycare, only while the caregiver is in class.


Some programs, like LINC, offer a transportation allowance for eligible students; this generally means the school will provide the cost of public transportation to and from class will be given through the program.


There are often different types of programs available to meet the needs of language learners; this includes location, schedule, and strict attendance. You should ask before you enroll if your program has the following:

  • Online, in-person or hybrid classes
  • Evening and weekends or only weekday classes
  • Mandatory attendance, or can you miss some classes

Private English programs are usually at private language schools, career colleges or private universities, charging high tuition fees. They are mainly for temporary visitors and international students. These programs are often expensive, and they may also offer temporary housing for students in their programs as part of the fees. Many post-secondary programs do not accept these English program credits.

Many settlement agencies can help you find English classes. You can also use our online mapping tool, Services Near Me, and search for "English Classes and Language Assessment" in your area.

For More Information

  • CLB-OSA - is an online self-assessment tool for people interested in assessing their English language skills based on the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB).
  • Local School Boards - A list of local school boards in Ontario. From the Ontario Ministry of Education.
Last updated: September 20, 2023 4001176