By Andréas Ruth B. Deolinda
Learning a new language can be quite a daunting journey especially when living in a country in which the language is least spoken or not at all. Reasons for wanting to learn the language can vary from workplace enforcement to education and one’s personal desire to learn the language.
Given that English is one of the world’s most spoken languages, many individuals who aren’t native English speakers turn to programs such as ESL which stands for English as a Second Language. to develop and learn the skill.
What is ESL?
English as a Second Language (ESL) program is specially curated for non-native English speakers who want to learn English or improve their English skills. The program includes domains such as reading, writing, listening, and speaking, which fall into three styles: interpretation, production, and interactive. These styles help build an integrated holistic approach to teaching and assessing English learners (ELLs).
As a point of definition, let’s take a step back and define what it means to be a non-native speaker. The term “non-native speaker” refers to someone who is learning a language that they were not born into or didn’t learn to speak as a child.
Now, let’s go back to the topic of ESL. There are six levels in ESL which include beginning ESL Literacy, low beginning, high beginning, low intermediate, high intermediate, and advanced ESL.
In the United States of America, there are two common types of ESL programs, namely: the Intensive English Programs (IEP) and the American Language and Culture Programs (ALCP).
Let’s look at these two programs individually.
Types of ESL programs in the US
１. Intensive English Programs (IEPs)
The Intensive English Program (IEP) is catered for non-native English-speaking international students for high-level daily communication and academic study. The areas of focus include grammar, reading, writing, and speaking. If you’re wondering if you have to have a specific level to sign up for IEPs, don’t fret, they’re suitable for varying levels of English proficiency.
２. American Language and Culture Programs (ALCP)
The American Language and Culture Program (ALCP) is a type of ESL program for non-native English speakers to assist and build their linguistic, academic, social, and cultural skills. This program helps non-native English speakers successfully integrate into the American culture and environment, especially for students going into university.
Why do foreign students need to take it?
Foreign students, especially those who aren’t native English speakers are not just measured by their academic achievements in their field but also by their level of English proficiency.
Many colleges or universities, especially those whose teachings are primarily English, require students to be proficient in English prior to enrolment. This requirement is so important that these institutions often ask for proof of certification once the training program is successfully completed.
What do you get after completing ESL
When a student completes the full ESL program, they are awarded a certificate. It is important to define which ESL program is most important based on:
１. The institution’s requirement if the certification is a prerequisite for study purposes
２. Your reason for wanting to complete the ESL program. This is because every ESL has a specific goal even though their domains or areas of focus may seem similar.
What do you need to do after finishing ESL?
Firstly, if you’re at this stage of your English learning journey, WELL DONE! Learning a new language is no easy feat and you should be proud of this achievement. It may also be the moment where you’re trying to figure out what to do with this certification — you may ask yourself where to from here? How can I use this skill?
I would like to first start off by encouraging you to immerse yourself with people who speak the language often because learning English inside the classroom is different than applying it in everyday life. In your interactions, notice how different informal slang words are used and how they are used; you may have learned that various English-speaking countries have a unique set of dialects they use in informal settings but learning the basics makes adapting much easier.
Although many people benefit from learning English for everyday use, most don’t undertake the challenge for personal reasons. Many individuals who complete ESL programs do so for either immigration purposes or academic purposes. Let’s break each down
- Immigration purposes
If you’re the reason for doing an ESL program is for immigration purposes then your next step will likely be to send the relevant immigration office as some require proof of English literacy. Some of these ESL certifications include IELTS, TOEFL, and TOEIC; the IELTS is the most common English language proficiency test required for Visa applications.
Once you’ve successfully completed the ESL training, contact the immigration office and submit your certificate — this is especially important because it determines whether your immigration application is successful or not.
- Entry into university
English-speaking college institutions are also very particular about making sure that all students are proficient in the language of teaching. Many require that prospective students )students applying for entry into the university or college) show proof of English-language proficiency and oblige the proof of successful completion to be included in the application.
So once you’ve successfully completed your ESL program, be sure to attach this to your application, or if you’ve already applied and the institution is awaiting the result, be sure to inform the office of this.
Where you can study ESL?
Now that we’ve looked at an overview of ESL, let’s unpack where exactly one can attend these courses. The great thing is that ESL training programs are accessible both online and in-person — the trick is finding them. You may find however that some institutions or immigration offices may refer you to specific schools they’ve either worked with, or they’ve found are commonly used by students.
If you find yourself lost and unsure where to look, here’s a suggestion of some offline and online institutions that may be able to offer ESL learning programs.
Online ESL learning platforms
AmazingTalker is an online platform that caters to students from all language backgrounds and offers one-on-one teachings with native speakers in over 104 languages. At AmazingTalker, a personalized learning experience, learning that caters to your needs such as individual schedule, budget, and interests, and an immersive language learning environment.
２. LASC: Language Scholastic
LASC which stands for Language Scholastic is an online platform offered by trained ESL educators that promises to not only teach English but also teach them the experience of English.
３. British Council’s LearnEnglish
The British Council LearnEnglish offers a range of online English courses, from self-study online courses to teacher-led courses, the program promises a learning experience that suits your needs. Its program is characterized into the main domains of learning but goes further to include a Business English program to improve your English for the workplace and learn about business topics. In addition, it offers IELTS courses.
Offline ESL institutions in the US
Here are some well-established ESL institutions located in the United States that offer both online and in-person classes to students.
１. Talk English Schools
Talk English Schools is that offers both in-person and online English courses. The institution has several locations across the US such as San Francisco, Atlanta, Boston, etc.
２. Mission College
Mission College is a community college located in the City of Santa Clara and in the heart of Silicon Valley. It offers courses for students looking to improve their English communication skills and offers three types of ESL programs: ESL credit, non-credit, and Intensive English. Mission also offers different types of attendance including daytime, evening, Saturday, and online classes.
３. The American Language and Culture Institute (ALCI)
Clark University’s American Language and Culture Institute (ALCI) is a well-established institution that offers programs and workshops aimed at helping students meet their English language learning goals regardless of where the student lives because it offers both online and in-person classes.
４. American English Institute
The American English Institute offers Intensive English programs and many more to students with the aim to improve their English quickly to succeed in a U.S. academic setting and speak and write with confidence in the workplace. They’re located in California and prices vary depending on the type of program a student chooses.
While there are many reasons for non-native speakers to learn English, the benefits are great across the spectrum. Some benefits include that English proficient individuals are more likely to earn more than someone who isn’t proficient, which encourages specialization into specialized training programs, enhances cognitive thinking abilities and of course, allows for much easier integration into English-speaking countries.
It is important to remember that with every skill that one gains, practice makes improvement! If you don’t continuously work on improving yourself and applying what you have learned, you will not be able to expand on what you have learned. So, engage with others and never stop learning.