English as a Second Language: What is ESL and how can studying English help you succeed?
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English as a Second Language: What is ESL and how can studying English help you succeed?

English as a Second Language (ESL), also known as English as a Foreign Language (EFL), is an intensive English Language program for non-native speakers. Most universities give international students the opportunity to study ESL alongside their chosen field of study, this means they can still participate in the range of social and cultural activities on offer at the school, and become fully immersed in the lively student community.

The aim of the ESL program is to increase the English Language proficiency of eligible students so they can meet the required academic standards of their chosen school or college. Classes tend to be detailed and intimate, with the ideal size being around 10-12 students, which ensures that each student receives the appropriate individual attention from their teacher. The comprehensive classes teach students a broad range of English skills to help them in both written and verbal communication, from the rules of spelling and grammar to the pronunciation and context of the English vocabulary, from English colloquialisms to reading and listening comprehension and more general writing techniques. All ESL courses teach varying skills depending on the students’ English abilities, needs and interests.

Most students choose to study ESL as preparation for their chosen University. If your case is similar, you can elect to study a program that specialises in Academic English. The other dominant reason people choose to study ESL is to improve their English before they go travelling- after all, English is known as the global language of communication. These students study in more general English classes, and tend to practice in more conversational tones so they gain the ability to communicate in many different situations. For those students wishing to study business, some universities offer Business English courses for those with a desire to learn the specific terms and communication skills they would need to carry out business in English.

Why Study ESL?

English Language programs greatly boost your vocabulary, grammar and general English skills. They teach you to read, write and understand English with fluency and confidence, but there are a number of other compelling benefits to studying ESL:

  • English Language programs provide you with a valuable, first-hand insight to the culture and societal customs of the country you have chosen to study in. Studying abroad will equip you with a global perspective, something the modern-day employer is keen for candidates to demonstrate, giving you a definite ‘edge’ in a very competitive marketplace.
  • ESL programs are a great way to meet like-minded individuals from all over the world, both in and out of school. This common ground is sure to secure you as not only classmates, but friends, and forming these connections can be incredibly beneficial for general English practice.
  • Immersing yourself in a brand new language and culture means there will be great opportunity to practice both in school and in the local community.
  • ESL courses can be tailored to your own specific needs and preferences due the broad range of programs on offer; for example, students may choose to take classes in conversational or business English.
  • English Language programs can help improve your scores in the English Language exams you are required to take upon entrance to your chosen University. These exams include: TOEFL, IELTS and the Cambridge Exam.
  • These programs often offer students accommodation, cultural and social activities along with general student services to ensure your travels and your studies are as fulfilling and enriching as they can possibly be.
  • Studying English as a second language prepares you for the academic rigour of Private School, College as well as University.

Choosing to study English abroad will not only improve your communication skills, it will also equip you with valuable international experience. Submerging yourself in an English-speaking country will aid your personal development, as you will need to be resourceful and creative in response to the challenges you will encounter. When you actively participate in a country’s native culture, it is inevitable that your language skills will develop a lot faster than those who don’t. Overcoming global barriers in communication will cause your self-confidence to grow along with your maturity. Learning through real-life experiences and delving right into a culture has been proved to be the most effective method for learning a new language.

Read on for more information on some leading institutions offering excellent English programs:

Southern Illinois University (SIU) is a diverse and welcoming university, based in Illinois in the USA. The Center for English as a Second Language (CESL) at SIU has a proud history, dating back to 1966. With 50 years of experience offering excellent English Language courses, CESL offers international students the chance to improve their English skills and to be part of American student life. Students learn through a mix of high quality teaching and fun lessons, and are able to develop the skills and knowledge they need to do well in their further studies. The Intensive English Program is an 8 week course that includes between 18 to 25 hours per week of studying in the classroom and taking part in lessons. Read the full profile…

Missouri State University is a public, comprehensive University with a mission in public affairs. Missouri State is the second largest university in the state, home to more than 24,000 students, including 1,500 international students. Missouri State students represent all 50 states of America as well as 85 foreign countries, making it a warm community that is rich with diversity and culture. The English Language Institute at Missouri State University is a multi-faceted, accredited program that provides English Language learners with the skills for academic and career success. The ELI consists of 25-28 hours of classroom instruction per week in 8-week sessions that are offered five times per year. Classes are small and inclusive, with an average of nine students in every class, meaning every student can get one-to-one assistance should they need it. Read the full profile…

Located in State College, Pennsylvania, a place more fondly known as “Happy Valley”, Pennsylvania State University is a safe and particularly beautiful place to study & live. The IECP at Pennsylvania State University is a premiere intensive English Language program. The IECP coursework provides students with the linguistic skills and cultural knowledge to participate in undergraduate and graduate programs, and serves as excellent preparation for both the TOEFL and IELTS exams. The course is accredited by the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA) and belongs to English USA, the American Association of Intensive English Programs.

Established on the California State University, Chico campus in 1979, the American Language and Culture Institute (ALCI Chico) has successfully provided intensive English language education for thousands of students from more than 90 countries around the world. The ALCI Chico curriculum includes specialized core courses (speaking, listening, reading, writing, and grammar) and a choice of electives such as pronunciation, American idioms, cross-cultural awareness, business English, survival English, and academic preparation. ALCI Chico offers five sessions of intensive English instruction per year to students of all proficiency levels, from beginning to advanced.

The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) is a public, coeducational university in Ewing Township, New Jersey. The institution combines the best practices of private institutions with a public mission, and welcomes students from all over the world across its quality bachelor’s and master’s degrees.  The campus is set in an area of natural beauty with modern buildings and facilities. The Institute for English as a Second Language and American Studies at The College of New Jersey offers English language courses for international students from all over the world.