An Analysis of Second Language Training Programs for Older Adults Across Canada

From Settlement AtWork Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
By: Lynn McDonald, Usha George, Laura Cleghorn, and Kristyna Karenova
Org: University of Toronto
Date: 2008

This report seeks to analyse second language training programs for older adults across Canada, to identify the conditions that best accomplish the goal of learning English or French and promote social, cultural and economic integration into Canada.

The authors provide an analysis of best practices and models of English/French language training programs that is focused on the dual outcomes of the programs: language acquisition and integration, as well as the special needs of the older adult learner.


You need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view these files.

Their analysis was guided by the following research questions:

  • What models and practices of English and French language training programs for older adults best achieve the goal of learning a second language?
  • What models and practices best facilitate social, cultural, and economic integration into Canada?

Recommendations for Program Enhancements

This program analysis reveals that many English/French language training programs across the country have emerged from community-based initiatives to address the second language needs of immigrant and refugee seniors. Programs have been created through partnerships among provincial and federal funders, community-based agencies, ethno-specific organizations, seniors’ centres, and older adults. In this respect, they exemplify community-based program development at its best. The challenge for these programs is to ensure that they are accessible to all immigrant and refugee seniors, are flexible enough to meet the needs of older learners, and achieve a high quality of service provision.

The authors make a number of recommendations in specific categories:


  • Partnerships among ethno-cultural and seniors’ organizations are essential in order to develop additional and enhanced language training programs for older adults.
  • Seniors’ programs require adequately funded outreach mechanisms.
  • Program models that are linked to and encourage opportunities for social engagement, such as ESL drop-ins, ESL cafes, conversational classes, and interest groups, must be developed and supported.
  • English/French language training programs for older adults should be linked to community or settlement services to provide support, information and referral when needed.

Remove Barriers to Participation

  • Federal and provincial agreements should ensure that English/French language training classes for older adults are free of cost and available to those who need them.
  • Full funding should be provided for transportation services and childminding.
  • Eligibility criteria based on immigration status should be eliminated in the LINC program.
  • Funders should offer more long-term contracts.

Classroom Practices

  • Classes for seniors, particularly lower-level and literacy classes, should be bilingual and kept to a maximum of 10 students.
  • Teachers/instructors should have an assistant, interpreter, itinerant teacher, or well-trained volunteer for one-on-one and small group support in senior classes.
  • Multi-level classes should not contain more than two levels.
  • Literacy classes for seniors should not be blended with any other levels.

Curriculum and Evaluation

  • There is a need for curriculum guidelines for older learners.
  • Teacher education about older learners is needed.
  • Performance outcomes for older adults should be measured differently than in standard classes.
English, French
The report is available for download in PDF format.