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Continuing Education

Getting started as an English Language Learner

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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 Assessment

SCHEDULE AN ASSESSMENT:  Before beginning any classes ELL/ESL students must complete the CLARS English Language Assessment to determine their Canadian Language Benchmark. The assessment is completed by the Hamilton YMCA Immigrant Services, click right to book an appointment > visit their website.

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

Build your English Skills before earning Credits

If your CLB assessment is below 6,  HWDSB Continuing Education offers adult ESL/LINC classes in locations across Hamilton to help you build your English Language skills in preparation for Credit Programs.

IF CLB Assessment 6 in Reading and Writing

Once you have built your English skills to a CLB level 6 in reading and writing you are eligible to earn credits. Click here for credit programs offered through CE.



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 and become a Canadian citizen
  • Find a job

What does each of these mean?

Get a high school Diploma

To find a job in Ontario you need to complete the Ontario Secondary School Diploma. The students must earn 30 credits along with volunteering hours to obtain the diploma. Here is a more detailed explanation of what you need to do to graduate from high school. As an adult learner the number of required credits will vary depending on your experience; once you get registered with us we will help you engage in programs and PLAR to help you graduate faster!

Attend College or University

College and university can provide students with a diploma, certificate or even a degree.  The requirements for college and university will depend on the program of your interest.  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 the 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, have a sponsor in Ontario that is an employer who is willing to hire you, and meet the educational requirements for your chosen trade. For a more detailed description on apprenticeship training in Ontario visit Start an apprenticeship.

Improve English Skills and become a Canadian Citizen

As a newcomer to Canada learning how to communicate in English is a process that takes practice. Immersing yourself in regular classes sounds intimidating but you can be assured that you are not alone. There are many other students who face similar struggles as you.  Along with the experienced teachers you will work together to improve your English. Continuing to build on the writing, reading, listening and speaking skills will assist you not only by being able to communicate with others, but also with the citizenship test.

Find a Job

In order to compete in the current job market adults need to be able to learn independently and have the foundational skills of using technology. Every person wants to be able to find a stable job in order to provide the necessary living conditions for themselves and the whole family.  There are certain requirements when applying for a job. For instance having a resume, cover letter, references, and maybe even an application. Before applying for a job make sure to review the requirements.

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 test questions from ApnaToronto, and Citizenshipcounts

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 if possible who have attended 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 Thursday, October 21, 2021.
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