Continuing Education + Job Training // Publishing since 1999

New Second Language Assessment Now Centralized Who, What, Where and When

By JOANNE MACKAY-BENNETT - September 9 2013

If you have ever wanted to learn a new language, you will soon discover that it takes time and patience just to decipher the pages of online information, let alone to figure out how to register for a class. In fact, sometimes I think that labyrinth-like websites should come with this warning: User may experience bouts of frustration and brain fatigue!

What follows is a basic guide to recent updates in government-funded second language assessment, referral and programming – complete with a growing list of acronyms.

Prior to enrolling in a provincially-funded or a federally-funded ESL or FSL program, students need to have their language skills assessed. This is nothing new. The YMCA has offered a free language assessment service for federally-funded language classes since 1992. Assessment for provincially-funded classes has been available at both the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB). What is new is that starting in January, the assessment process for enrolment in provincially-funded courses will change.

As of early January (precise date to be confirmed), the YMCA of Greater Toronto Language and Assessment Referral Centre will be the only assessment centre in the City of Toronto. Adults who wish to register in a government-funded ESL or FSL class must initially be assessed at one of the Y’s language assessment and referral centres. Once you have been assessed, you will be informed of a class time and location that suits your particular needs.


Anyone who is 18 years of age or older, who was born outside Canada and whose first language is neither English nor French, is eligible to make an appointment for assessment. That includes Canadian citizens who were born outside Canada whose first language is neither English nor French, permanent residents, landed immigrants, convention refugees, refugee claimants, protected persons and holders of a letter of initial approval of permanent residence from Citizenship and Immigration Canada. You are ineligible if you are a Canadian-born citizen whose first language is English or French.


Assessments (in either English or French) are based on an evaluation of your listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. Your assessment can take anywhere between one and a half and four hours so you’ll need to plan your time with that in mind.

The most current information on the assessment process is available on the Y’s main page: Recently, they have added a very helpful FAQ section that lists a number of commonly asked questions and answers:

To book an appointment, please call 416 925- 5462 between 9 am and 5 pm, Monday to Friday.

Once your assessment is complete, you will be referred to a government –funded program at your level and at a time and location that is convenient for you.

Programs to which you might be referred include government-funded ESL or FSL instruction offered by the Toronto public and separate school boards, Language Instruction to Newcomers in Canada (LINC) or LINC Home Study. FYI, LINC Home Study is a program for those who cannot attend regular classes. The curriculum allows students to study online or by correspondence and to work one-on-one with a certified teacher.

More advanced students may be eligible for Higher-Level Language Training (HLLT), an umbrella term for two federally-funded language programs: Occupation Specific Language Training (OSLT) and Enhanced Language Training (ELT). Their provincial ‘equivalent,’ is called Specialized Language Training (SLT). For comprehensive information about higher- level language training, go to:

Generally speaking, to qualify for OSLT you must be assessed at an intermediate level and have training or experience in one of several ‘high-demand’ career sectors, including: Business, Health Sciences, Child and Youth Worker, Construction Trades, Automotive Trades, Policing and Security. Note that OSLT courses are also offered free-of-charge at workplaces and colleges. Check this website for the most up-to-date information:

ELT courses offer advanced-level language skills that are job-specific. These courses are ideally suited for internationally-trained professionals and tradespeople. Further information on ELT can be found at a number of public sites including the Toronto Public Library, TDSB and the TCDSB. Here’s the website for ELT courses at the TDSB: LearnEnglish/EnhancedLanguageTraining.aspx


All assessments will take place at one of the Y’s four Language Assessment and Referral Centres in Greater Toronto. Remember to call 416 925-5462 first to make an appointment.

  • Central YMCA ( Downtown Toronto): 20 Grosvenor Street, 3rd floor
  • North York YMCA: 4580 Dufferin Street, 2nd floor
  • Scarborough YMCA: 10 Milner Business Court, Suite 600
  • Etobicoke YMCA: 1530 Albion Road, Unit 83


Depending upon where your assessment will take place. As of the end of November, hours are as follows:

  • Central YMCA: Mon. Tues. Thurs. Fri. 8:30 am – 4:30 pm; Wed. 8:30 am – 8:00 pm; Sat. 10 am -2 pm.
  • North York YMCA: Mon. 8:30 am – 8:00 pm, Tues. to Friday 8:30 am – 4:30 pm.
  • Scarborough YMCA: Mon. Wed. Thurs. Fri. 8:30 am – 4:30 pm; Tues. 8:30 am -7:00 pm.
  • Etobicoke YMCA: Mon. to Fri. 8:30 am – 4:30 pm.

It is no secret that provincial and federal government spending is under scrutiny. By centralizing how clients access governmentfunded second language programs, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Ontario’s Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration will be better equipped to measure and evaluate second language instruction programs.

Keep in mind that even if you are unclear about the new, single assessment and referral system at the Y, you can still walk into your neighbourhood community centre, or a local, government-funded ESL/FSL class. They will help you make an appointment.

The YMCA also provides a wide range of settlement services for newcomers, including community programs and/or educational and training institutions. Contact The Newcomer Information Centre: http://

For those who are interested in post-secondary studies but want to upgrade their language skills, remember that colleges and universities offer bridging programs and transitional year programs. See back issues of Learning Curves: or contact

University of Toronto

Millie Rotman Shime Academic Bridging Program: 416 978-7487

Transitional Year Program: 416 978-6832

Ryerson University:

Spanning the Gaps: 416 979-5000 x 2291

York University:

Transition Year Program: 416 736-5782

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