Language course in Montreal: ESL tips

Hockey and sports in Montreal

If there’s one thing Canadians love, it’s their hockey! The home team, the Montreal Canadiens (aka the Habs), play at the Centre Bell, where you can watch them take on their biggest rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs, or American teams like the New York Rangers and the Chicago Blackhawks. Tickets are infamously expensive and hard to come by, but are on sale on the 10th of every month during hockey season (Oct-April). 

So what about attending a match for free? Work as a volunteer selling raffle tickets for charity organised by the Montreal Canadiens, and you can practise your language skills and then watch the last period for free! Ask your language school for more info.
 
If you need your summer sports fix, you can check out the Montreal Alouettes, the city’s Canadian football team, which plays its home games at the Percival-Molson Memorial Stadium. They regularly sell out games, so get your ticket early!
 
If tickets are too pricey, have no fear; Montreal’s sports bars provide almost as much atmosphere as being in the stadium! Try La Cage with three locations around town, anywhere along the Avenue du Mont-Royal (La Taverne Normand for example), Bruno Sport Bar in Le Plateau, MVP Bar Sportif next to Quebec University and La Station des Sports with 2 locations. 
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Montreal cheap eats

Bread is your friend! Bagels for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch are the cheapest ways to fill up in this somewhat spendy city. Jewish delis aren’t only for New York, and Montreal has plenty of their own where you can pick up a smoked meat sandwich that will keep you going throughout the day. A few examples include Snowdon Deli, Schwartz’s Deli, Fairmount Bagel and St-Viateur Bagel. 

Put your language skills to the test at an improv show

Montreal is notorious for its funny bone, and attending an improv show in English or French is an awesome way to put your new listening skills to use! Head to Montreal Improv to catch a show in the language of your choice or even take a class! There are free monthly workshops with the option to sign up for regular classes. Not far away is the Sunday Night Improv show at the Theatre Sainte-Catherine, which also boasts the longest running free improv workshop. Get ready to laugh!

Practise your French with locals at Montreal’s markets

Market hop till you drop – Montreal is positively bursting with markets! From the mother of all markets, the Jean Talon Market in Little Italy, to the canal-side Atwater Market, the waterfront Bonsecours Market and countless others, your options are endless. Practise your French with the local vendors as you peruse the produce, cheeses and deli meats, or pop into one of the market’s eateries for a quick bite. You’ll feel like a real local!
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Montreal’s events guide

If you’re scrambling for plans for what to do in Montreal TONIGHT, check out the super helpful MTL Blog. Need to know the details on Montreal’s mac-and-cheese week? Check. Looking for a list of the city’s hipster hotspots organised by watering holes, low-key cafés and restaurants for an instagram-friendly dinner? Check. It’s the next best thing after asking a local!

Experience Canada through day trips from Montreal

If you’re going on a longer language stay in Montreal, why not spend some time exploring Canada? If you’re travelling sans car, you can get to Quebec City in 3 hours by train or to Ottawa in just a 2-hour train ride. For smaller town options, visit the lovely Mont-Tremblant, a colourful lakeside spa town, preferably in September coinciding with their food fest, Tremblant Gourmand.
 
Head off to Lake Memphragog to search for Memphré, a Nessie-like lake monster of local legend. Visit the cutesy town of Magog on the shores of the lake and the Blue Lavande estate where you can picnic in a lavender field. Mont-Orford National Park is just a stone’s throw from the lake where you can get in some gorgeous hiking.
 
Other fantastic natural playgrounds include Le Mauricie National Park and the Seven Falls Regional Park, named for the seven waterfalls it contains. Happy hiking!
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Public transport

To avoid the slightly pricey single ticket, try more economical options like a weekly or monthly pass, both of which include transport to and from the airport. If you’ll be in Montreal for a long stay, invest in a yearly Bixi membership, which entitles you to the public bicycles all over Montreal. Another option is buying a second-hand bicycle and selling it again when you leave.

Watch, Read, Listen

Watch
The Whole Nine Yards (2000) Director: Jonathan Lynn
This gangster comedy is set in Montreal and was filmed all over the city, including the famous Notre-Dame Basilica.
 
C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005) Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Following a French Canadian family, this coming-of-age tale takes place in the Montreal of the 1960’s and 70’s.
 
Life of Pi (2012) Director: Ang Lee
While the film’s most spectacular scenes take place in the middle of the ocean, the narrator tells his story as he strolls along the Old Port of Montreal in the opening and ending scenes of the film. 
 
Montreal movie night
Feel like practising your language skills with a film in French or English? Try it out on a Tuesday night, when the majority of Montreal cinemas offer discounted tickets! Montreal is packed with cinemas, so you can ask your host family or flatmates for recommendations on their favourite place to catch a flick.
 
Read
The Favourite Game by Leonard Cohen
Trace the famous singer-songwriter’s roots back to his childhood in Montreal, where the author paints a stunning semi-autobiographical picture about growing up in Canada.
 
Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill
This 2006 debut novel follows Montreal’s forgotten, downtrodden children living on the streets and fighting to survive. For fans of O’Neill’s gritty work, she’s also published two other novels, both set in Montreal as well – 2014’s The Girl Who Was Saturday Night and 2017’s The Lonely Hearts Hotel.
 
Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel
Travel, twists and romance – all set against the backdrop of the city of Montreal. What’s not to love?
 
Tout ce qu'on ne te dira pas, Mongo by Dany Laferrière
The lives of Haitian immigrants intersect in the centre of Montreal in this lyric novel, which recounts the narrator’s colourful Québécois life.


Listen
Suzanne by Leonard Cohen
Welcome to My Life by Simple Plan
Hometown Waltz by Rufus Wainwright
Neighbourhood #1 by Arcade Fire
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The live music scene in Montreal
Aside from the scores of summer concerts in Montreal, there are loads of live music joints to get your fix! If you’re looking for that charming, antique theatre feel, you’ll love the Théâtre Corona, complete with frescoed ceilings and red and gold curtains. Over in the entertainment and theatre district (Quartier des Spectacles), Club Soda and Metropolis are two standbys. There are also, of course, plenty of bars where you can hear jazz or local bands into the wee hours.  

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