ESL Program Helps International Students Achieve, Believe and Succeed

Taslima Sultana, ESLWhen Taslima Sultana enrolled in Sacred Heart University’s English Language Institute, she could speak little English and write even less. Just one year later, however, she is ready to begin working toward her bachelor’s degree, taking the biology, communications, English, physics and other pre-pharmacy courses she’ll need to graduate and be accepted into graduate school.

As its name suggests, the Intensive English Language Program provides adult, non-native English speakers with 20 hours a week of intensive, high-quality instruction geared not only toward helping students strengthen their English language skills, but also prepare them to successfully pursue – and achieve – their academic, professional and personal goals and dreams.

For 21-year-old Sultana, who in 2010 moved with her husband from Bangladesh to Bridgeport, this means completing the bachelor’s and master’s degrees she needs to become a pharmacist.

“Sacred Heart was just right for me, because it’s close to home and a good, good school,” she said. “I had to work very hard in ESL classes, but my teachers gave me a lot of support and extra help. In the end, I reached the highest level an ESL student can achieve.”

Divided into six, eight-week semesters, Sacred Heart’s Intensive English Language Program meets at flexible times each weekday for classes focused on:
• Academic writing  – designed to improve sentence clarity and paragraph organization.
• Listening – stressing the most challenging features of spoken English, emphasis is placed on lecture comprehension and note-taking skills, along with general listening abilities.
• Public speaking and presenting —skills – the language and preparation skills needed for successful, confident oral communications are the focus.
• Practical —grammar – oral and written exercises are used to help students better understand and apply proper grammatical forms and meanings.
• —Pronunciation – concentrated on clear and accurate speech with all aspects of language addressed, including sound, stress, rhythm and intonation.
• Reading and —comprehension – contemporary fiction and non-fiction are used to help build students’ reading comprehension, vocabulary, ability to discuss ideas and respond both verbally and in writing.

Combined classes integrate reading, writing, listening and speaking skills and include exercises that, as Sultana can attest, increase students’ comfort level in real-world settings.

“Before this program, I wasn’t comfortable speaking English and sometimes avoided it, but now I am ready to speak and write in the classroom and outside the classroom, too,” Sultana said. “Instructors gave me continued support, and I know they will be there in the future, as I work on my degree, if I need more.”

For students unable to commit to 20 hours a week, Sacred Heart’s English Language Institute also offers a semi-intensive, part-time option. Private tutoring either in addition to classes, or alone, can also be arranged and is often appropriate for students who need to improve their English abilities for a specific purpose, such as to achieve a business goal. All programs have a strict attendance policy.

The Institute is run by Sacred Heart’s University College and taught by professors with extensive experience teaching adult ESL students. Participants who need an F-1 student visa for full-time academic study will receive the U.S. I-20 Form needed to apply.

Students accepted into the program are expected to submit homework assignments, attend language lab and participate fully in classes, which are kept small (5 to 12 students) to ensure that each student receives individual attention.

Attending the English Language Institute provides students with a conditional acceptance to Sacred Heart undergraduate and graduate —programs – a benefit Sultana said helped her stay focused. “I didn’t have to worry about where I would apply to get a bachelor’s degree, because I knew that if I was successful in the ESL program, there would be a place for me to continue my education at Sacred Heart, which is one of the best schools in the region. That was extremely valuable. Sacred Heart and its English Language Institute have given me so much, and really I'm just beginning here!”