For many newcomers to Canada, learning English, or French, is just the first hurdle.
To secure their future in their new land, they need to become fluent in another vernacular - the language of the workplace.
When the boss greets you by your first name, do you respond in kind?
If you choose the standard voicemail greeting over a personalized one, what kind of message does that send?
Is this (name of high-profile local hockey player here) who is mentioned so often across the desks a statesman or a deity?
No matter your qualifications, fail to understand the nuances of this language, and you could have trouble finding and keeping a job, in your field or otherwise.
One set of immigrants recently emerged from a ceremony at a downtown hotel with the right to tell interviewers: "I speak office."
All with backgrounds in the key sector of information technology, they were the latest graduates of an Ottawa program that could be called a finishing school for IT professionals.
They've learned about report-writing, telephone skills, even table etiquette. They've been grilled in mock interviews and served placements in real workplaces.
But their most important acquisition could be a new attitude.
"For most of them, it's self-confidence," says organizer Ying Xie.
The course is administered by the Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre, where Xie is employment support program director, but it is open to all nationalities.
Since its start in 2008, it has helped newcomers from Brazil to Liberia to the Asian subcontinent in their search for a career footing in Canada.
With employment falling in Ottawa's IT sector since the end of the tech boom, these workers must compete for jobs with applicants who have years of Canadian experience. And because the security clearance required for government jobs can take years for immigrants to obtain, their options are fewer.
Yet IT is at the heart of the "knowledge economy" meant to supplant a Canadian manufacturing sector under growing global pressure. And with Canada and other western countries hoping skilled immigrants will take over the swivel chairs vacated by retiring boomers, demand for such workers is expected to rise.
Future prospects, however, won't pay the rent for Mohamed Hamail and Gang Zhang, two participants in the career-bridging program. Both are on work placements at Ottawa's Titus Labs, where they hope to demonstrate skills that could earn them permanent jobs.
Both hold master's degrees and both worked for major companies, Hamail in Egypt and Zhang in China. And both say their biggest surprise is the informal atmosphere at Titus, which produces security and compliance software for e-mail and documents.
"The environment here is more loose, more friendly between colleagues. There's more chance for an employee to develop himself, to bring out ideas," says Zhang, who came to Ottawa with his wife on Christmas Day 2008, to escape Shanghai's pollution and raise a family. They have a six-month-old son.
Hamail, 38, with a science background, is puzzled by the apparent tendency of interviewers to rely on assumptions about foreign workers instead of reviewing their abilities objectively. Married and with six-year-old twin boys, his goal is to persuade an employer "to give me a chance to transfer my logic, my skills, to different fields."
Adds Zhang, 35: "The most difficulty is in getting an interview."
The placements were arranged by Regi Roy, Titus's vice-president of product development. Roy, who came to Canada from India in 1998, also helps by coaching the students on interview skills.
But as a representative of a small company - Titus began with four employees in 2005 and has 36 today - he can understand both sides of the hiring dilemma. "To get the right fit is sometimes challenging," he says.
Roy notes that federal subsidies are available to companies that hire recent graduates, and suggests a similar program for immigrants would help both newcomers and employers.
Federal and Ontario government money support the career-bridge program. There are no fees for participants, who must be Canadian citizens, convention refugees or hold permanent resident status, but no wages, either, unless organizers can find them a paid placement at one of the 50 small and medium-sized employers they work with.
Some 240 newcomers have gone through the 12-week course, which has spawned a similar program for internationally trained accounting professionals. Applicants need to pass an entrance interview and must already be proficient in English.
Nihan Ozhusrev, a project co-ordinator at the Chinese Community Centre, believes a chief benefit is the the chance for participants to develop contacts in their industry. For immigrants coming from different countries and backgrounds, he says, "the networking is missing ... and especially when it comes to identifying opportunities in your own field, you need this."