Immigration and Professional Transitions: Language Integration

2015-2016 Issue 1

Language is important for any newcomer, particularly for those who wish to enter the job market. Communicating in the local language can help you through every step in the process: expanding your professional network, catching the attention of potential employers, and clinching a job interview.

Building upon your existing language skills will “significantly increase your job prospects,” says Emilie Nketiah, Career and Transition Advisor at McGill’s School of Continuing Studies. “It’s worth the investment.”

The city is full of successful newcomers who have followed that advice. Here are two of their personal stories:


Carina Lucen

Carina Lucen came to Canada from Peru, where she studied English and French. She took two months of French classes when she arrived in Montreal, then began studying finance in French. She now works at a bank in Montreal’s Saint-Leonard neighbourhood, where she works with clients “in English, French, Spanish and Italian.” Her goal is to become a financial advisor, so she’s been active in the job market. But she wasn’t confident with her English skills, particularly in job interviews. “I studied English for three years, and I was good at it,” says Carina. “I just have to practice, and I’ll get it back.”

Rather than taking traditional English language courses, she searched the web for career advice and discovered McGill’s Labour Market Workshops. “It’s something to help me improve my English, and also advance in my career. It’s already helped my confidence, and my interview skills are stronger.”

“There’s a confidence that comes from communicating in local languages,” says Emilie. “Even if you only have basic language skills, showing that you have a willingness to learn will help you integrate into the culture.”

Alejandro Soto

Alejandro Soto

Alejandro Soto emmigrated from Venezuela. When he arrived in Montreal, he spoke English and French, and had experience working as a telecommunications engineer. He refreshed his French skills, and began studying telecommunications in French. “After two semesters I was doing well, so I thought I might be able to study and work at the same time,” he said. “And although my languages skills were not perfect, they were good enough to find work in a call centre while looking for an engineering job.” His girlfriend had previously enrolled in McGill’s Labour Market Workshops, and recommended that he attend.

Alejandro’s plan was a success: he recently accepted a position at a telecommunications company in Montreal. “It’s the exact same job that I had in Venezuela, but here.” Alejandro’s office functions mostly in French, but he’ll also use English. “In Venezuela I worked with people and businesses from around the world, and we often spoke in English.”

Although he says his career transition required patience, “my advice would be that if you could do your job before, you can do it here.”

Montreal’s unique culture and language means that “there isn’t a shortage of resources available,” says Emilie. “There are conversation practice sessions, and classes specifically for writing. Language courses are offered full-time, part-time, and online. There are so many options, it’s impossible not to find something that’s the right fit for you.”

The factor that both Carina and Alejandro emphasize in speaking a language is confidence. “I think people often know more than they think they do,” says Alejandro. “Be positive, and be prepared.”

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McGill University School of Continuing Studies offers intensive, part-time and online language courses in English and French, as well as translation courses in English, French and Spanish. Please visit our website for a complete list of courses.

This article is available in Spanish on NM Noticias Montreal.

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