Last Updated: June 18, 2017

English vs. work in the first year


For newcomers with low English proficiency, learning English is extremely important for ensuring successful settlement in Canada and for securing good long term employment. At the same time, many newcomers may feel a strong desire to begin working immediately after arrival, instead of studying English. This may be due to financial concerns, both present and future. Knowing that there is a plan to help them find employment when their sponsorship financial support ends may be helpful in alleviating some of those concerns.


The desire to work instead of learning English may also be related to dissatisfaction or difficulty with ESL/LINC classes. Some newcomers are not literate in their mother tongue and this can make English classes even more challenging and potentially frustrating. Sometimes, there is a push by an instructor or organization to move a newcomer to a more advanced level of instruction than for which the newcomer is ready, in order to meet organizational objectives.


Wherever possible, those supporting newcomers should encourage them to continue taking English classes while they have financial support from the government or their sponsor group (or both.) In addition to moral support, in-person English practice sessions and homework help can also be beneficial to help the newcomer get the most out of his or her English classes. Once a newcomer identifies a particular sector in which he or she wishes to seek work, help with sector-specific English vocabulary would likely be very beneficial. See, for example:  “Specialized English work vocabulary – Landscaping“.


For some newcomers, the combination of feeling dependent on government and sponsors and having a lot of “free time”, when not in school, can lead to reduced feelings of self-worth and contribute to depression and anxiety. Helping the newcomers find part-time paid or volunteer work can not only help with financial concerns, but also provide an opportunity for them to improve English skills. In addition, it can provide a boost to the individual’s feelings of self-esteem and overall morale. (See Success story: BM secures part-time painting work – a success for him personally and professionally.)