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February 29, 2024

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University program strives to break language barrier on campus

Most students can probably share a story or two about having an instructor they couldn’t understand, however the English as a Second Language program works hard to ensure this problem is minimized when it comes to international teaching assistants.

The English as a Second Language program performs the task of deterring whether or not foreign graduate students are ready to teach.

The ESL determines the students’ abilities to teach by facilitating placement testing.

“International teaching assistants are required to pass placement testing,” according to Spike.

They take a specialized form of placement testing that consists of a mock classroom setting.

“The ITA must prepare a mock lecture through which their English proficiency and teaching skills are evaluated,” Spike said.

Those present during the testing include two ESL testers and two undergraduate student volunteers, according to Kathryn Ruth Spike, the ESL program director.

The ESL program also invites faculty from the departments in which the teaching assistants will be teaching to grade performance, however it is not required.

However many times faculty members are not available to attend placement testing due to scheduling conflicts, according to Spike.

According to Spike, regular communication with departments that have large amounts of foreign speaking staff and student evaluations are a way in which performance is evaluated after their mock classroom testing takes place.

“The ITAs want to know how to be good teachers and how to understand their students,” Spike said.

The ESL does even more to help those who haven’t captured the English language. There are programs for all members of the University’s community including undergraduates, graduates, graduate student assistants, professors and even family members of the University community.

“We provide services to anyone who comes to BG who does not speak English as a first language,” Spike said.

The ESL offers programs to freshman to prepare them for General Studies Writing classes. It also teaches “practical English, for example the proper usage of idioms, slang and formality,” according to Spike.

ESL also provides help for graduate students who are writing their thesis, according to Spike.

Not all students are required to take these classes. They can test out through placement testing process.

Other programs offered by the ESL department include Cross Cultural Conversation Connection, American Culture through Film and the Family English Program.

The CCCC program pairs international students with national students to give each a chance to learn about the others’ culture, as well as improving the international student’s English, Spike said.

Students have the option to be paired up based on interest, age, major or other preferences. There is an initial meeting arranged, and then the pairs can meet randomly throughout the semester to hang out, going shopping, to a sporting event, etc.

“We usually have about a 150 students sign up in the fall and about 100 in the spring,” Spike said.

According to Spike, some CCCC is required for some communications classes and other classes even offer extra credit for participating.

The Family English Program offers free English for families of students and teachers and visiting faculty.

“[Their families are] in a community where they can’t communicate, so we work to help them,” Spike said.

The Family English Program course covers basic English such as listening, speaking, reading and writing.

The current summer course has also dealt with other topics in America culture

including famous people, laws, holidays and etiquette, according to Ann-Gee Lee, the ESL office manager and programs coordinator.

“They are very motivated,” said Lee about her current Family English Program attendees.

The attendees consist of students and wives or siblings of other students at the University. Some of which knew little or no English before coming to the U.S.

“I didn’t know any English when I came to America. I lived near a Spanish community and I thought Spanish and English were one language. I was very confused,” said Awayed Almutairi, a graduate student at the University from Saudi Arabia.

The class currently contains individuals from seven different countries, according to Lee.

Anyone who interested in learning more about the ESL programs can call the ESL Program Office at (419) 372-8205 or visit the ESL Web site at

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