Culture and Pragmatics

The Framework is an open-source online tool, a 360°  View of Communicative Competence at Work. Designed by the Ontario Government the framework is a resource for foreign trained professionals to provide strategies, approaches, and areas for language development that support intercultural workplace communication.  The tool does not come with a teacher’s guide or classroom activities, but it can serve as a starting point for classroom conversations and independent study. The tool also includes a video and downloadable pdf.

  Free access:​

The Canadian Encyclopedia is not intended as an ESL resource, or a citizenship resource; however, it is an interesting, up-to-date and comprehensive compendium that can be used by students and educators for research or personal interest. It is written at a level that is accessible to Stage 2 learners.

The Encyclopedia is provided in both English and French, and contains 14,000 articles in each language. The topics include Canadian history, politics, popular culture, science, the arts and sports. Audio and video features are embedded in the online documents, and include the well-known Heritage Minutes. The closed captioning feature can be used for accurate English subtitles of the Heritage videos. There is an extensive list of interactive resources in an alphabetical list, organized as collections, exhibits, timelines and teaching resources. The teaching resources include several study guides and short quizzes, which cover issues such as Black History, the War of 1812, Critical Thinking and Compiling a Bibliography. The website also provides a link to the Canadian Citizenship Challenge, an online quiz that simulates the citizenship test. It references the Discover Canada citizenship resource. The quiz can be completed by a student individually or teachers can register their students to complete the challenge as a team.

Register your team here:

Free access:

This document was the result of a team project from Norquest College’s School of Intercultural Communication. It was written to help newcomers understand the communication context in Canadian workplaces.

The general learning outcomes include:

  • Understanding Canadian safety policy specific to the workplace
  • Practice pronunciation clarity for the workplace
  • Learn about working in a multicultural organization
  • Expand industry-specific and idiomatic vocabulary

Free access:

The focus of this resource is to build awareness and improve intercultural communication in culturally diverse work environments. It is intended for foreign-trained professionals, but will also be a useful resource for their Canadian counterparts and for the professional development of ESL instructors.

The resource has four parts: a series of 19 short (2-minute) videos, supported by an activity guide, a booklet of scene-by-scene breakdowns for the videos to give context to each scene, and a guide containing the full transcripts of each video.

The scenarios in the videos are based on the lived experiences of newcomers. (The resource is not referenced to the CLBs, but the language is at an intermediate/advanced level.) The videos present authentic challenges in intercultural communication in a workplace setting: refusing to shake hands, failing to understand the unwritten rules in a meeting, not communicating problems to a supervisor, having a difficult conversation about uncomfortable behaviours. The resource aims to increase intercultural awareness and competency, build and practice workplace skills and appropriate language. The aim is to enhance the employability of newcomers, give them the tools to navigate communication differences in multicultural settings, not only to enter the labour market but also to maintain employment.

Free access:

The resources below will be useful to instructors and learners in understanding culture.

Free access.

English Language Lessons (Canadian point of view):

Human Rights 101 is an e-learning opportunity through the Ontario Human Rights Commission. There are video tutorials on human rights and responsibilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code. (CLB 4+)

Free access:

For CLB levels 5–6, designed to be used by an instructor.

This 366-page textbook is available as a downloadable PDF or as an e-text for use in the classroom (or with a tutor). The chapters integrate the four main language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing), with some essential skills and intercultural skills.

Features of the text:

  • Key scenes are acted out by 9 individuals of varying ages, different genders and race/ethnicities, with different accents: should appeal to a wide range of learners
  • Audio and video activities
  • Interactive text: underlined vocabulary and idioms linked with definitions, interactive activities can be submitted for marking with immediate feedback
  • Themed grammar activities
  • Tasks and rubrics align with CLB document for instructor’s use or self-assessment
  • Extension activities provide practice in community settings
  • Navigation bar allows learners to download/print individual activities, link to social media, easily access the table of contents and answer keys, change settings and translate (linking to Google Translate)
  • Chapter vocabulary lists and glossary provided
  • Instructor guide available

Content is comprehensive. Chapters are clearly laid out for instructors and learners. Online availability means learners can access the text in their free time for review and reinforcement, or as homework. Recommended CLB 5–6.

Free access:

The link provides a printable PDF version.
$$$ Kindle e-reader available through

This online textbook is geared towards CLB 5–6 learners. It is designed to be used by an instructor or tutor. An instructor guide is provided.

The focus is on the Canadian workplace: workplace culture, development of listening, speaking, reading and writing skills, plus Essential Skills and intercultural competence.

The text introduces two characters, a Strategy Coach and a Workplace Mentor. The Strategy Coach provides strategies to develop language skills. The Workplace Mentor introduces learners to general workplace culture in Canada.

  • Video tasks and focus questions help learners develop “noticing skills” and prompt discussions about similarities and differences between the learner’s home culture and Canadian culture.
  • Reading sections provide reading passages, pre- and post-reading activities. There is also a reading progress check for self-assessment.
  • Each listening section has two listening texts with pre- and post-listening activities, and a listening progress check for practice and self-assessment.
  • A writing section with pre-writing tasks, writing practice and a progress check. A rubric is included that generally aligns with CLBs.
  • A speaking section contains pronunciation, speaking practice and a progress check. A rubric is included.
  • Wrap-up includes discussion, reflection and extension tasks. The extension activities have vocabulary log activities, community tasks and research opportunities.


  1. Workplace Environment
  2. Personal Management
  3. Workplace Communications
  4. Clients and Customers
  5. Career Management

Text features:

  • Navigation bar allows learners to download/print individual activities, link to social media, easily access the table of contents and answer keys, change settings and translate (linking to Google Translate)
  • Vocabulary tables and glossary provided

Content is comprehensive. Chapters are clearly laid out for instructors and learners. Online availability means learners can access the text in their free time for review and reinforcement or do as homework.

Free access:

This is an interesting interactive self-learning program. Effective for learners at a higher Stage 2 or for instructors who need a refresher in intercultural communication. It takes about an hour to complete. The site requires Adobe Flash download.

Free access:

The Language and Skills Training Resource Catalogue of ISANS includes books that cover a wide range of topics for ESL Literacy and SLT classes. For example:

  • Through the Lens helps learners navigate and understand living in a diverse community
  • Workplace Curricula focuses on healthcare, engineers, communication for work and business, pronunciation and communication for work
  • Soft skills focus on professional communication, working with others, workplace writing for levels 1, 2 and 3
  • Language learning strategies
  • EAL computer training

Order form included; prices range from $20 to $300 (plus HST).

Free access:

This website is written by a British academic and author of books on teaching English using film.  The website contains a large library of short films, cartoons and TV ads. The lessons can be browsed according to theme and language level. Topics cover issues such as bullying,  love, the gold mining industry, and compassion, to name just a few.  Lesson plans are interesting, clear and well presented. The levels are aligned with CFER (Common European Framework of Reference);  A1=’beginner’ ; A2=CLB4, B1= CLB 5,  B2 = CLB 6-7, C1=CLB 8-9.

Free access:

Developed by Norquest College in Alberta, this set of resources is designed to teach English pragmatics or “soft skills”  to internationally educated professionals (IEPs).   English in the Workplace instructors will find resources to enhance professional language proficiencies, the unwritten rules of workplace communication,  in the Canadian context.  The lesson plans are CLB 5+, and include handouts, audio files and transcripts. The lessons cover topics such as: apologies, feedback and complaints, compliments and requests.

The English Language Learning (ELL) Training Network was developed by CEIIA, Bow Valley College’s Centre for Excellence in Immigrant and Intercultural Advancement. Designed for ELL practitioners, the Network provides information, resources and tools for instructors, a resource finder, PD workshops and webinars, network for professional learning, blog posts and social media links.

Free access:

TESL Ontario’s webinars are available to everyone through TESL Ontario’s You Tube Channel.  Free access:

TESL members may also view webinars through Tutela (registration required). Current and archived webinars are available for viewing.  Webinars count as TESL professional development.

Webinars can be accessed at:

Select TESL Ontario in “Groups” to access webinars past and present.

There are currently 100 webinars (some repeats) available for access on this site. The topics are varied and cover many aspects, including literacy, classroom management and PBLA.

Online, free for members. And membership is free. When completed, many posts are kept in the archives. Some webinars are located within a membership group and one needs to be a member to join or view. Most webinars can be used for TESL Ontario professional development requirements.

Free to join. Free access nationally. Must register then search Tutela Webinars.

Register at:

This online resource (based on Hong Kong) offers activities, worksheets, games and teaching advice for all levels. Many of the resources are free but there is also a $39 membership subscription to access to all materials. Some engaging (free) games include: Balderdash, Personal Information Dominoes, and Silent Dictation.

This site provides scripts and audio files concerning a number of pragmatic patterns. Instructor Resources can be found under “EAL Instructors.” Audio files and scripts are available for requests, apologies, complaints, compliments and feedback.

Free access:

This is a for-fun e-book of the differences between Canada and the United States. The e-book is available as a free download.

Free access:

The Alberta Workforce Essential Skills Society (AWES) has a number of workforce/workplace specific resources. This handbook can act as a stand-alone training program in an ESL employment class.

The general site contains a variety of additional documents supporting organizational development, workplace safety, leadership and so on.

Free access to the general site:

Free access to the handbook:

The Alberta Workforce Essential Skills Society (AWES) has a number of workforce/workplace specific resources. This workbook can act as a stand-alone training program in an ESL employment class.

Free access to the workbook:

When learners have employment goals, these resources fill in the gap between the skills and activities needed to write a resume, to have a  successful interview and the competencies and to acquire the skills needed to keep a job in Canada. Topics include a broad range of areas that instructors may need some support in teaching:

  • Workplace culture
  • Business talk
  • Telephone tips
  • Getting along with others
  • Business etiquette
  • Office politics
  • Networking
  • Meetings

The text communicates core information and the workbook supports that learning. Each unit is organized in the same pattern and there is an answer key in the back.

Available to purchase:

Book $45.50
Workbook $23.50
ISBN-13: 9780195432183
Publisher: Oxford University Press