Language centers are places where students can get extra help, or take courses in, certain languages. Various schools have various mandates: most offer English-as-a-second-language training, others specialize in French, and still others offer foreign languages instruction.
English as a second language
As English is one of the official languages of Canada, proven proficiency in English is necessary to enroll in most degree programs. Many schools now offer training and courses for students whose first language is not English. These are non-credit programs and courses designed to develop English language skills in an academic setting that enhances student preparation for university study.
Generally, these programs are several months long and involve intense immersion in the English language. Students often live with English sponsors and speak only English outside of their peer group. In the classroom, the focus is on both conversational and written English, and includes exercises designed to allow them to understand and succeed in subsequent undergraduate or graduate programs they may ultimately be interested in.
Placement tests are also offered by these language centers. These are computer based and test the student's ability in reading, writing, listening and speaking. For students who need to demonstrate English proficiency but don’t need to take a program, passing this test will often be sufficient.
ESL tuition fees
ESL training, while not usually counting for degree credit (although you can gain a certificate of completion), still incurs tuition fee costs. These fees are separate from “regular” tuition fees and can cost more than $400 per week.
Modern language training
The language center is also a place where students can learn other non-English languages, such as French, Arabic, Mandarin, or Russian. Very often these departments will be physically housed within the language center. These courses can either be for credit (and taken by many degree students, either as an elective, or as their major), or for no credit (usually taken by continuing education students who wish to upgrade their foreign language skills for personal reasons).
Some language centers also house language laboratories, which are places where students of foreign languages can work on audio-visual and computer programs. These are usually supplemental to actual classroom learning. Supplemental library, reference, and archival materials related to the various modern languages (old texts, dictionaries, etc.) studied at that school are also housed in the language center. Accessing these materials is generally free for students.
In addition to actual language learning, language centers also focus on other aspects. This includes studies in linguistics, the methodology and organization of classroom instruction, that school’s language education policies, program evaluations, and teacher development. Issues related to bilingualism, multilingualism, cultural diversity, and literacy are also developed here.
Language writing center
The school’s language center will often house (or be affiliated with) the school’s writing center. Writing tutors will aid with writing-related issues such as spelling, grammar, editing, and essay writing styles. Special workshops and presentations aimed at improving writing style are also periodically offered.
Honors and graduate students will often use the writing center when it comes time to write their thesis. They can get help on the technicalities of writing a thesis (eg. grammar), and also on various writing styles and which are appropriate for a thesis-based work.