English learning program a bridge for international students

The Daily News

Flags from around the world hang above a study abroad fair held in the Atrium. The fair offers information and advice to students wishing to experience life in other countries. DN FILE PHOTO Logan Winslow
Flags from around the world hang above a study abroad fair held in the Atrium. The fair offers information and advice to students wishing to experience life in other countries. DN FILE PHOTO Logan Winslow

In an effort to help foreign exchange students adapt to a new culture, Ball State has a program in place to help the students learn English.

The Intensive English Institute gives international students with little to no English speaking ability the chance to properly prepare for an academic course load.

The program began as a tool to aid students struggling with the latter stages of developing English reading, writing and speaking. Since then, it has evolved into a full-fledged program to improve student’s English skills from the bottom to the top.

Kathy Ramos, associate director of curriculum of the Intensive English Institute, said the program is a challenge for incoming students.

“It’s extremely challenging,” Ramos said. “Our program is rigorous. They’re in class 24 hours a week plus half an hour to an hour of homework every night.”

The program requires students to focus solely on learning English which means those in the program must delay starting their actual academic course load at Ball State. 

“Part of our mission is to prepare students for academic classes specifically so we don’t necessarily do a lot of training about how to go to the bank and get an apartment,” Ramos said. “Very few students actually want to be in our program. They want to be in their academic program and so we’re a bridge or stepping stone to that.”

The seven-week course is normally retaken for those who begin in the lower levels. Ramos said it could delay the beginning of a student’s college career by up to a year and a half. She said there are roughly 150 students participating in the program at one time.

Xinyue Deng, a telecommunications major from China, said the biggest improvements through the program have been in writing.

“I’m not a good writer,” she said. “I’ve found I really need to improve my vocabulary. A lot of words I don’t really understand so I can’t communicate with people better, or I can’t read well. That is really where I need to progress. Writing has been most difficult.”

Ramos said while developing the program, there have been challenges.

“We didn’t realize that after we had started a level one that then we would have students who are actually lower than that,” she said.

The process isn’t always successful for students. International students with virtually no English skills still have to pay for the program and travel to the United States, despite the possibility they may never make it through the program and into academic courses.

“A lot of our students are on scholarship and they only have 18 months to finish their studies,” she said. “If you only have 18 months and you have to repeat, you have already lost it.”

For Deng, the program has been a bridge to a future in studying at Ball State. She said she celebrated a poster she had made in one of her upper-level courses and even said some of it came relatively easy.

“I think I’m kind of a good speaker,” she said. “Speaking is not a problem. In China, I’ve seen a lot of movies and I would learn a lot of pronunciation of something from the movies. I think that helped a lot.”

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