East Coast School of Languages Supports Immigrants

East Coast School of Languages Supports Immigrants

Last week, I was a guest at the Halifax Chamber of Commerce Spring Dinner. This year, the theme was immigration and how Nova Scotia companies can support immigrants and keep them in our beautiful province. Many young people feel that they have to move to a bigger city to get a good job but there are plenty of opportunities here and, I would argue, a stronger support network. At the dinner, the speakers were talking about the importance of local companies hiring immigrants or volunteering in mentoring or connection programs. As I sat listening to them speak, I was surprised that we have to try to convince companies of the value of a diverse workforce and to convince them of how immigrants can help expand their businesses.

I am very proud to say that ECSL has worked hard to hire lots of new immigrants. Some of them have been graduates from our local universities and colleges and some are people who have come in on a different immigration scheme. For all of them, landing their first job is a huge challenge as employers can be unsure about how someone from a different culture, and for whom English is not his/her first language, will fit into their company. Over the last few years, ECSL has hired more than 10 new immigrants and out latest recruit starts today as our Social Activity Coordinator! We have hired people from Korea, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, the Bahamas, the USA, Japan, and Syria. They have brought fresh ideas, new perspectives, and new business into the school.

In addition to hiring immigrants, I volunteer in the Halifax Connector program, which is designed to help newcomers develop their network. Connectors meet newcomers for a brief chat to learn more about their experience and what kind of employment they are looking for. Then we connect them to 2 or 3 other people who may also be able to connect them to more people. In this way, in a short time, the newcomers develop a network of local business people and can learn about upcoming job vacancies.

As an immigrant myself, I know how difficult it is when you arrive in a new country or city and you know no-one. Therefore, I am very happy that East Coast School of Languages is a very active member of the support system for newcomers to our province.


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The Importance of Fit

The Importance of Fit

When a school is hiring a new teacher, educational qualifications are important. Experience is important. However, there is something that is imperative for every hiring manager to consider that all too often gets ignored: fit.

It goes without saying that all language schools should follow established minimum standards when it comes to qualifications and experience for its instructors. Our students travel a long distance to come to our schools here in Canada, and they expect a quality learning experience. They expect teachers who have the training, the knowledge, and the skills to help them achieve that experience. If a school only looks at those two criteria, though, it runs the risk of failing to deliver what students are expecting. That is where fit comes in.

Before we go any further, it is important to define what fit actually is. Fit is that seemingly intangible quality of belonging and, well, fitting in. Instructors who fit in well with the school's culture will immediately feel at home; those who don't fit in will never feel comfortable teaching at that school. That feeling of discomfort will follow the teacher into the classroom, and students will be able to sense that something is wrong, even if they can't put their finger on what it is.

Though fit seems intangible, it actually isn't. A school that knows itself well and has established its core values will be able to almost immediately determine fit during the interview process. When a school knows the reasons for its success and is aware of its own culture, its hiring managers ask interview questions to determine fit. Based on each applicant's answer, hiring managers will have a very good idea of which teachers will fit into their school's culture and which teachers won't. It is important to note that just because someone doesn't fit, that doesn't mean that that person is a bad teacher. That person could be a great teacher with excellent qualifications and experience; it just means that that particular teacher is not right for that particular school.

Teachers who fit in tend to be successful because their own personal values align with the school's values. They don't have to change who they are in order to deliver a meaningful learning experience to their students. In turn, students tend to do well both academically and socially within the school because they have consistency in their classes. They know what is expected of them. To the students, there's an intangible congruence. They may not be able to explain why they're having such a great experience in the school. It just "feels right." However, a great hiring manager knows very well why students are succeeding and enjoying their experience: s/he has hired instructors who fit.

As you can probably tell by now, we take fit very seriously at East Coast School of Languages. Because we established our core values years ago, we know what is important to us. We hire teachers whom we know will be a good fit for us. At the same time, we want to be the right fit for them. It has to go both ways in order for the relationship to be mutually enriching and successful. When fit is considered at every level of a school's organizational structure, it translates directly into the classroom and ensures student success and satisfaction.

Posted in ECSL Blog


Stay Calm and Speak On

Stay Calm and Speak On

The speaking section of the IELTS test is when you sit down and talk face–to–face with a trained IELTS examiner. The speaking test is an opportunity to show the examiner what you're made of – it’s a chance to show your stuff!

As an IELTS examiner, I am often asked, “How can I do better on my speaking test?”

Below are my TOP 7 tips for candidates to help ensure they keep talking and improve their performance on the IELTS Speaking test:


Before you take your IELTS exam, it's very important that you be aware of the criteria the examiner will use (and what each one means). This will help you work on the areas that you need to improve before your exam and know where to focus during the exam.

The speaking exam is marked on the following four criteria:

Fluency and coherence – your ability to speak naturally and smoothly, and how easily the examiner can understand you;
Lexical resource – your ability to use a range of vocabulary appropriately;
Grammatical range and accuracy – your ability to use correct grammar and grammar structures;
Pronunciation – your ability to pronounce clearly, including intonation, stress and sounds.


One of the most important things to remember for your speaking exam is you must TALK! What I mean is you must talk as much as you can in the time you are given. Remember:

Don’t worry about talking too much – there really is no such thing!
Don’t worry about going over your allotted time – the examiner will stop you when you reach the time limit.


If you don’t understand the question you have been asked, ask the examiner to repeat it, clarify, or explain it in more detail.

Why is this so important?

It is important so that you can plan and prepare (quickly) for what you want to say.

If you don’t understand the question, you are less likely to speak fluently, and more likely to stumble on the answer and/or run out of things to say.

TIP #4 – PAUSE, THINK, PLAN (quickly)

The speaking exam is divided into 3 parts, each part with different kinds of questions:

Part 1 & Part 3
In Part 1 and 3, it is a good idea to pause for a moment before you answer to think about what you want to say, and how you want to develop your answer.

To give yourself a moment to think you can repeat or restate part of the question:

“Why do I like parks? That’s an interesting question. I like parks because…”

Once you start speaking, focus on answering the question and developing your answer.

Part 2
For the longer question in Part 2, you are given one minute to prepare your answer. In that one minute prep time, be sure to:

Take some notes on your paper based on the questions on the question card;
Write down examples, details, words, phrases to help you answer the question;
Use these notes to further develop your ideas.
Make sure you refer to your notes when you are giving your timed answer to the examiner.


I can’t stress the importance of this tip enough. You can never have too much practice!

Some ideas to help you practice:

Take an online or in–class IELTS prep course;
Practice on your own, record yourself, and play it back so you can hear how you sound;
Practice with friends, family, instructors – have them read you practice questions, time you, and record you;
Repeat above items again, and again, and again.


The IELTS speaking test usually has questions about everyday ideas and topics, so there is a good chance you will know something about the topic already. By following tip #5 above, you will get a sense of the types of questions and topics you may have on your exam.

During the exam, think about what you know about the topic, and use examples from your own life. When we talk about something that's familiar to us, and something we have experience with, we are more likely to be fluent and we will have more to say.


Throughout your speaking test be sure to add details and extend your answers. In Part 1, you may be asked a question like this:

Do you prefer indoor sports or outdoor sports?

A good answer would include an example of a sport you like, with some detailed reasons:

I prefer outdoor sports such as baseball. I enjoy being outside in the fresh air; there are more sports that can be played outside rather than inside, and there’s usually plenty of space for moving around, and for being with a large number of people.

These TOP 7 tips will help you prepare for your speaking exam, and help to ensure you keep talking throughout your allotted time. Don’t forget there are excellent (and FREE) preparation courses available online and in the classroom. Check out for more details.

Good luck with your IELTS practice, preparations and exams.

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Trip to Sugar Moon Farm

Trip to Sugar Moon Farm

With spring finally showing its face here in Nova Scotia, we took the opportunity to spend last Sunday at a traditional maple syrup farm. Our students met for an early start at 9:00AM and we drove to Sugar Moon Farm in the Tatamagouche area where we were welcomed by a beautiful country side.

Once we arrived at Sugar Moon Farm, our students got to enjoy a traditional Canadian Pancake breakfast with Sugar Moon Farm’s famous maple whipped cream, wild blueberries and delicious hot chocolate. We then continued to participate in a short tour through the farm in order to learn more about the history of Maple Syrup, how the farm harvests the syrup from their 2,500 trees on site, and the processes everything needs to go through before turning into the delicious Canadian maple syrup we know and love.

Our trip was finished off with a well-known ‘Maple Syrup on a stick’ treat and a quick stop at the Sugar Moon shop where students had the chance to purchase a variety of Maple Syrup products to take home. If you happen to visit Nova Scotia during the months of March and April, make sure you add a trip to Sugar Moon Farm to your agenda.

Posted in ECSL Blog


Challenges and Rewards

Challenges and Rewards

Do you ever feel that there are not enough hours in the day? Do you feel that everything on your to-do list is really important but you never seem to cross anything off? If you never feel like this, congratulations – you probably don't run your own business! If you do feel like this, how do you focus on the important things? I have found that taking time every day to look at my list and really think about what items are important to, and have the most impact on, our students, agents, staff, and partners, helps keep me focussed. One of my important tasks is to meet agents as often as I can.

It is sometimes more challenging to be calm and focussed when I am preparing for a trip as there seems to be a thousand things to do before I go away and then there is a lot of catch-up when I return. However, meeting agents face-to-face is very valuable and very rewarding. It's one of the most favourite parts of my job! Because of the nature of our long-distance work, much of our communication these days takes place by email or on Skype. These are certainly great ways to keep in touch but nothing is more fruitful than a personal conversation. It's amazing what you can accomplish in a 25-minute meeting or over coffee or lunch at an ICEF event!

As I prepare to attend ICEF Vancouver this weekend, I have been reflecting on how many agent events I have attended over the years and how many agents I have met. It is a lot! Once again, I am looking forward to spending a few days with agents that we have met before, and some we have worked with for many years, and to meeting new agents. I know that many of the agents attending ICEF run their own businesses so I know that their lives are just as challenging as mine as they try to prepare for the event and then deal with all the follow up when they return to their offices. For me, one of the best things is knowing that there is an amazing team running East Coast School of Languages in my absence. In fact, they usually don't miss me at all!


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Tips for Learning English

Tips for Learning English

English is a useful tool that can help you open doors and create opportunities for yourself. This is why many people—estimates go up to as much as one billion people around the world, in fact—choose to learn English as an additional language. Whether you are a student learning English in an English speaking country such as Canada, or you are learning English in a foreign-language environment, you will run into challenges along the way. Here at ECSL, we firmly believe that with the right strategies and tools, you can learn English successfully and create opportunities that will change your life.

Here are five pieces of advice that you can follow during your English journey that will help you learn English more efficiently and intelligently.

1.       Set clear, measurable, timely goals for yourself—You may want to get a better job in your home country, work abroad in an English-speaking country, immigrate to an English-speaking country, or complete your post-secondary studies in English. Perhaps you want to travel comfortably or build relationships with people from other countries. Whatever your goals are, it is important to divide your goal into smaller steps that are easy to measure. Make sure that you allow yourself enough time to make a plan, work towards the goal, attain it, and measure your success. Also, make sure that you give yourself realistic time frames to meet your goals. It takes a lot longer than six months to "speak English fluently," so that goal should be broken up into smaller goals and spread out over a long period of time. Also, put up visual reminders of your goals in your living space to remind yourself of what you are trying to do when times get tough, you get tired, or you lose your focus.

2.       Do the work (and we mean REALLY do the work)—Oftentimes, students of English underestimate how much time and energy they will need to spend learning English. But you need to stay focused on what you are trying to achieve and do the long, hard work that is required to get there. This means challenging yourself at school and outside of school to use English as much as possible and in as many different contexts as you can manage. The harder you work, the better you will be at reaching your goals—it's a simple formula.

3.       Figure out what your weaknesses and repeated mistakes are—It isn't easy to figure out what you need to work on. That's why taking English classes can be very helpful; you will have a teacher who can help you through the process of discovering what you should focus you energy on when you are making a learning plan. You have to really listen to and pay attention to yourself, which is not easy! Having a teacher and classmates for this process is really helpful, but then you must go back to #2 and do the hard work of practicing in order to improve in your weak areas and identify your "favourite" mistakes.

4.       Set up a schedule or work plan for yourself—Students sometimes set goals for themselves and think of what kinds of work they will need to do to target their weakness but then forget to plan out how they are going to work on those areas. It is important to schedule your day in a way that will build habits. For instance, a student who really struggles with listening practice can watch YouTube videos in English every day from 9:00pm to 9:30pm. This is a great way to make practicing a habit.

5.       Be healthy and have fun while you learn—This is the final and most important piece of advice. If you are going to learn effectively, you will need to take good care of yourself and balance your language learning with your personal life. Be sure to eat well, exercise, and sleep enough. Also, it is crucial to enjoy your life and do activities you enjoy while you are learning English. Stress will affect your learning negatively, so be sure to relieve it by doing activities that you enjoy and that help you relax and have fun. And interestingly, doing hobbies where you are using English can really help you learn. Some of the students with the best English are ones who watch a lot of English TV and movies, like to read books in English, take lessons (music, dance, etc.) in English, or play video games where they have to type and speak in English.

If you follow this advice, it will definitely help you to learn English or any other language you want to learn. Good luck on your journey!

Posted in ECSL Blog


Overcoming and Compensating for Language Barriers

Overcoming and Compensating for Language Barriers

Learning English and completing your English language test at your nearest IELTS Test Centre was your first step to enhancing English writing, speaking, and comprehension skills. Even after successfully passing your tests, there can still be language barriers you’ll need to overcome both in work environments and social settings.
Learning how to adapt to these types of situations requires applying different strategies to ensure everyone can communicate clearly and understand each other including:

Have Patience – You can’t expect communications to proceed as quickly as it would if were speaking to someone in your native language. Overcoming language barriers and avoiding them takes time.

Seek Clarification – Never assume you or others understand what was said. It’s acceptable to ask politely for someone to clarify what they said.

When Speaking, Speak Clearly and Slowly – To avoid misunderstandings and miscommunications, slow down, and take your time to enunciate clearly every word.

Avoid Using Jargon and Slang Terms – Not everyone will understand different types of jargon and slang terms correctly. If you use these phrases, it can lead to improper usage, causing misunderstandings between people. Instead, stick with common words and terminology. If you must use a jargon or slang term, make sure to explain its meaning.

Restate Your Understanding – Take the time to ask open-ended questions of others to verify they understood what you said. If you were the listener, you can also use open-ended questions to confirm you have a clear understanding. For instance, instead of saying, “Are we clear?” ask the other person, “What is your understanding of….?” In cases where you are confirming your understanding, start off with, “What I heard you say was…”.

Be Precise – Your definition of some words and what they mean can vary from someone else. It’s important to be as precise as you can to avoid miscommunications. For example, the word “shortly” can mean different time frames depending on the individual. To you, it might mean the same day, while for someone else it could mean within a few days or even a week.

Use Different Forms of Communications – To further clarify what was spoken, follow up with an email or text message highlighting specific points.

Take Time to Provide Definitions – For more complex terms and words, it helps to provide a general definition to ensure your meaning of the terms is perceived correctly.

Be Aware of Different Words with Similar Meanings – English words can have multiple meanings, which will change on how they are used, such as to, two, and too.

Be Aware of Differences between UK, Canadian, and US English – While all of these countries speak English, there are differences in meanings for certain words, as well as variations in accents and dialects. For instance, the sporting term “football” typically means soccer in the UK, while in Canada and the US could imply a completely different sport.

By utilizing these tips and remembering to use them, you can help avoid misunderstandings and overcome language barriers. For more tips and tools you can use to improve your English or for help prepare for your IELTS exam, explore our website and other blog posts. To locate your nearest IELTS Test Centre, use our “Find an IELTS Test Location” feature or click on the map below.

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