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Continuing Education

Improving English Language Skills

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Adult Newcomers to Canada interested in taking credits for the Ontario Secondary School Diploma need to follow the steps below.

*Translate any information on the website into Arabic, Mandarin, Spanish, Somali, Russian, Other.

Canadian Language Benchmark Placement Test

SCHEDULE AN ASSESSMENT:  Before beginning any classes, learners with a first language other than English need to determine their Canadian Language Benchmarks. The language assessment is completed by Hamilton YMCA Immigrant Services.  Visit the YMCA website and look for English Language Assessment and Referral Services for more information. Call to make an appointment.

RESULTS OF ASSESSMENT: Adult learners must have reached a minimum CLB of 6 in Reading and Writing to join HWDSB Credit programs.

Improve your English skills before earning Credits

If your assessment has any skills below CLB 6, HWDSB Continuing Education offers Adult English Language classes in locations across Hamilton to help you improve your English language skills in preparation for Credit programs.

With CLB 6 in Reading and Writing

Once you have CLB 6 in reading and writing you are eligible to earn credits.



In Canada going to school at any age has many opportunities. What is your reason for coming back to school?

  • Get a high school diploma
  • Attend college or university
  • Apprenticeship training
  • Improve English skills for every day life
  • Become a Canadian citizen
  • Find a job

What does each of these mean?

Get a high school diploma

For many jobs in Ontario, you need to complete an Ontario Secondary School Diploma. As an adult learner, there are a variety of ways to earn credits. Once you get registered with us, you can get recognition for prior learning through Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR). You may be surprised to learn how quickly you can graduate with an Ontario Secondary School Diploma! Students can earn up to 26 credits through PLAR and need 30 credits along with some volunteer hours to obtain the diploma.

Attend college or university

College and university can provide students with a diploma, certificate or a degree.  The requirements for college and university will depend on the program.  You can find the requirements for College programs on Ontario Colleges and for University programs on Ontario Universities Application Centre (under Undergraduate 105).

Depending on the program you wish to take, you will need to apply to college or university using the above websites once your Ontario Secondary School Diploma is achieved.

Apprenticeship training

As part of College programs, an apprentice is learning a skilled trade on the job under the direction of experienced workers and you also have instruction time in a classroom where you learn from instructors who know the trade.  There are more than 150 skilled trades in Ontario in the sectors of construction, industry, motive power, and service.  In order to qualify for apprenticeship, you need to have legal permission to work in Canada, a sponsor in Ontario (an employer who is willing to hire you), and the educational requirements for your chosen trade. For a more detailed description on apprenticeship training in Ontario visit Start an apprenticeship.

Improve English skills for every day life

As a newcomer to Canada, learning how to communicate effectively in English is an important part of integrating into your community and gaining the language skills you may need for further studies. Joining Adult ESL and LINC classes might sound intimidating, but you will be assured that you are not alone in your commitment to overcoming language barriers. There are many other immigrants who face similar struggles as you. Along with experienced teachers, you will work together to improve your English language skills.

Become a Canadian citizen

For many newcomers, becoming a Canadian citizen is an important part of their life as they immigrate to Canada. Adult ESL and LINC classes can help you meet the language requirements needed to apply successfully for Canadian citizenship. Our Canadian Citizenship Preparation course can help you learn the information needed to complete the citizenship test successfully.

Find a job

Every person wants to be able to find a stable job in order to provide the comfortable living conditions for themselves and their whole family.  There are certain requirements when applying for a job. For instance, you will probably need to submit an application, resume, cover letter, and references. Before applying for a job make sure to review the requirements. To compete in the current job market, workers need to be able to communicate well with others and often need some foundational technology skills.

How can I improve my English vocabulary?

As you are communicating in English by either reading, writing or speaking it is a good idea to keep track of all the unknown words you come across.  Here is a graphic organizer that you can download and use to write new English words.

Extra resource

Vocabulary, free word puzzles, and activities

How can I improve my writing?

Practice grammar by reading through the many handouts and grammatical rules on Owl Purdue website. If you are not sure which grammatical structures you should be familiar with review it with this sheet.

Paragraph format – This video will help you understand how to write a paragraph.

Opinion piece writing – This video will help you understand how to write the rough copy of an opinion piece and the good copy.

Avoiding plagiarism –When using ideas from the internet make sure to write down the website.

Researching tips –Use Google to find information on any topic. Make sure that you use websites that are credible (meaning up to date and from a valid source)

How can I improve my reading skills?

When reading a text take a note of the reading strategies.

Practice using these strategies by getting familiar with some Canadian folktales.

Understanding the structure of a news article.

Get ready for the citizenship test by reading about Canada.

You can even take a course to prepare you for the test.

Practice for the citizenship test with some practice questions from ApnaToronto and Citizenship Counts.

How can I improve my listening and speaking?

Practice your listening skills with 5 Minute English and efast.

Practice your speaking skills with Mike and efast.

Visit some extra resources at rong-chang website.

How do I know I am ready for regular classes with other English speaking students?

Vesna is one of our previous students who transitioned from ESL to Adult Day School and is now in college.

I met my husband in Bosnia almost 10 years ago. I will never forget when he told me that he lived in Canada and is just visiting his home country. By joining him to a new country I had to change everything in my life, from job to friends. The greatest challenge was learning a new culture, a new language, and be exposed to different kinds of foods and new people. This new setting was a huge contrast to my prior life. I grew up with the support system of my parents and my whole family, but now I only have the help of my husband. Other than missing my family, the greatest challenge is learning English. I began a second language program and started with the alphabet. This class helped improve my writing and speaking skills, communicate inside and outside of classroom, as well as communicate at work. In order to improve my English and to communicate with other people, I decided to enroll in Adult Day School. The first course I took was the literacy course and I had great support in the classroom from the teacher and other students. All the day school classes have helped me with reading and writing as I was participating with other classmates in daily tasks. Now that I got more comfortable with the English language I no longer felt frightened. Achieving the high school diploma was the first step to attending the nursing program at a College in Toronto. I think that the ESL classes and the adult school support immigrants because they have free education. As a former student of Red Hill, I can say that this school was one of the best I had ever been to. I had an excellent time in the past few years and want to say thank you for the teacher support.

In order to ensure that you are ready for taking your first credit toward the diploma the guidance counsellor may ask you to complete a writing assignment. 

Preview a lesson from the literacy course and try the assignment!

By taking this first step you are moving in the right direction toward your goal.

How can I be successful and achieve my goal?

  • Go to class every day
  • Ask questions
  • Speak to your teacher
  • Speak to others with similar experiences
  • Complete all your work
  • Do your best
  • Don’t give up!
  • It is not just enough to get accepted to the program of your choice! The greatest challenge is being able to stay in the program. Do your research on the program you are interested in and speak to others who have completed the program.

Who do I contact if I have any questions?

Call the Hill Park Learning Centre (905-561-2190) to inquire about any of our programs.


Updated on Wednesday, March 16, 2022.
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