English Language Learning (ELL)

ELL supports all U of T undergraduates enrolled in the Faculty of Arts and Science whose first language is not English (multilingual students), as well as native speakers seeking to improve their English language skills.

Banner with text saying English Language Learning Program

ELL supports all U of T undergraduates enrolled in the Faculty of Arts and Science whose first language is not English (multilingual students), as well as native speakers seeking to improve their English language language ability. Our mini-courses and other activities are designed and taught by U of T professors, and they are FREE. Whether you are

  • a new international student
  • a student who has lived and studied in Canada for a number of years
  • a student whose environment outside of school is not primarily in English
  • or a native-speaker student who finds formal, academic English challenging

--ELL can help you! Take one of our NEW mini-courses, open to students in all colleges. Participate each term in a 7-week series of communication workshops (Communication Café) and a 3-6 week writing activity online (Reading eWriting).  There are no fees for these activities.

ELL takes a holistic approach, encouraging students to immerse themselves in English to improve their reading, writing, speaking, critical thinking, and listening. All of these language areas are interconnected, so improving all of them together can lead to faster progress in learning. ELL has a friendly atmosphere and welcomes students of all ages, backgrounds, and levels of English. 

*NEW*  English Language Learning Mini-Course:  Free and Non-Credit

English Language Learning Through Canadian Literature

April 29 – May 3, 2019

10:00 am – 1:00 pm

WI 523 (Wilson Hall, New College, 20 Willcocks Street entrance)

In this five-day course, you will be introduced to some of the varieties of Canadian culture through reading a creative essay, a story, a play, a memoir, poetry, and more.  The course will also include analysis of video material related to authors of varying cultural backgrounds within Canada.

We will read the literature as a collaborative group in class, with time allotted for vocabulary building and questions.  You’ll engage in short exercises to practice academic writing as well as reflection, critical thinking, and creative expression.  Small group discussions will make it easy for you to practice explaining your ideas.

This course is FREE and open to all undergraduates in years 1-4 in the Faculty of Arts & Science.  There is no academic credit for this course, and there are no fees. 

To register, send your name, college, and year of studies to ell.newcollege@utoronto.ca

CCR notations will be given to students who attend 4/5 sessions and complete the exercises.  All work is done during the course meeting; there is no homework.  This course will not affect your GPA.  Please register only if you are reasonably sure you will participate.

Join us, and become more fluent in academic English!

ELL offers a series of 1.5 hour workshops (Communication Cafés) in the first 7 weeks of each term.  We also offer a 3-week writing activity online (Reading eWriting) in the first 6 weeks of each term. Students can improve their abilities in academic reading and writing, critical thinking, group discussion, and oral presentation. There is no fee for these activities. 

You may choose which activities you’d like to attend, and you may attend as many or as few of the sessions as you wish.  To gain maximum benefit, try coming to a weekly on-site Communication Café (offered five days a week, at different times, and at five colleges for convenience) for seven weeks and doing Reading eWriting online. We think you’ll want to come back for more!

Communication Café

Speaking and oral presentation practice, suitable for all levels.  No registration and no fee —just come! 

The Communication Café will meet next from January 7, 2019 – February 27, 2019

Note: The location of the Thursday Communication Cafe has been changed to 119 St. George Street, Room 27, for the rest of the Winter 2019 term.

Winter 2019 Communication Cafe schedule and topics

More information

Our activities help students whose first language is not English to feel confident expressing their ideas orally. Vocabulary building and development of critical thinking are emphasized. Topics may include:
  • Canadian literature, history, and politics
  • persuasive presentations, interviews, and debates
  • scientific discoveries
  • business ethics and personalities
  • vocabulary games and dramatic role-play
  • art and photography

Café workshops will give you practice in speaking at length, arguing a point, and participating in group discussions. Our cross-cultural atmosphere is very welcoming. Native speakers of English may also participate, and many students returning to university after an absence find our activities helpful. New members are welcome at each meeting. Come to one café, or come to all!


Attend regularly to earn a Certificate of Participation, which will be noted on your Co-Curricular Record.  To earn the certificate, students must attend a minimum of 6 café sessions over one or more terms.  You may attend more than one session per week.  You may also attend cafés at any location, or change the location where you attend at any time.  We have different instructors and different peer mentors at each location, so come and meet us all!  The certificate recognizes the following:

  • contributions to student life (e.g., welcoming new participants, fostering positive interactions among students, etc.)
  • qualities of good leadership (e.g. problem-solving and encouraging others, using creativity and humor, etc.)
  • improvement of language skills over the term or year


Reading eWriting

"Meet" with an ELL instructor online to work on your academic reading and writing!


Reading eWriting is a series of 6 emails which you write to a writing centre instructor, in response to a reading of your choice. The goal is to strengthen the speed and ease with which you read, reason, and write. This method is an effective way to build reading strategies and vocabulary. Since there is no grade/penalty, the method enhances your ability to develop ideas more rapidly without feeling "blocked." Try it and see!

Reading eWriting will be offered in Winter 2019 as a free, 3-6 week program. Session #1 starts on January 11, 2019, and Session #2 starts on February 1, 2019.  You may register for one or both sessions. 

Registration opens on November 12, 2019.

More information

Join our Facebook groups to receive updates!  Go to Facebook and search:

ELL at the University of Toronto

English Language Learning Student Association (ELLSA)

Follow us on Twitter: @ELL_program

Join the ELL Distribution list

To get current information on ELL programming and events, subscribe to our distribution list. To subscribe to the list, send an e-mail message to listserv@listserv.utoronto.ca. In the BODY of the message type a command of the form: subscribe ELL-L firstname lastname (You can use either upper or lower case.) You will receive a reply asking for confirmation.

You may also join our Facebook group "ELL at the University of Toronto."


Leora Freedman is the Coordinator of the ELL Program and Associate Professor in the Teaching Stream.  She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction writing from the University of Arizona and has taught many college and university courses in English as a foreign language, English literature and rhetoric, and professional/ technical communication.  She is currently a member of an international research group studying the role of reading in students’ experience of higher education.  Her chapter based on teaching at U of T recently appeared in What is College Reading? (Horning, Gollnitz, & Haller, eds). Leora is a novelist and short-story writer; her most recent novel was a finalist for the 10th Annual National Indie Excellence Award in the US.

 Paola Bohórquez is an Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream in the ELL Program. She holds a PhD from York University in Social and Political Thought and has taught many college and university courses in academic and professional writing, rhetoric, composition and applied linguistics.  Paola’s dissertation, which was nominated for a Social and Political Thought Dissertation Award, was titled Living Between Languages: Linguistic Exile and Self-Translation.  Recently, she was the course director for the New College One Program, "Travelling Words: Language and Diversity."  Paola’s current scholarly work focuses on innovative methods for teaching academic English to multilingual students.

You can contact the ELL instructors at ell.newcollege@utoronto.ca.


The English Language Learning Program is funded by the Faculty of Arts and Science. Begun at New College in 2008, the program has expanded to support students in all 7 colleges. We also gratefully acknowledge the help of Dr. Elaine Khoo of the English Language Development (ELD) program at the University of Toronto, Scarborough, on whose innovative model the ELL program is based. The ELD website contains many useful resources for language learning.