English is one of the most widely spoken languages across the globe – with approximately 20 percent of the world’s population listing English as one of their spoken tongues. Approximately 327 million people worldwide consider English their first language; it’s spoken across more countries than any other language (in case you were wondering – 101 countries list English as a national language). English is the number one language choice to pursue as a second language by a considerable distance.
Since English is such a popular tongue, it stands to reason that to develop English language proficiency opens many doors for the non-native speaker; from the opportunity to travel or emigrate to one of the 101 English-speaking countries worldwide, to the increase in employment opportunities in the many multinational companies that work alongside English-speaking businesses.
In addition to improved work and social opportunities, learning a second language can dramatically improve cognitive function. Studies have shown that learning a second language, regardless of your current stage in life, stimulates growth and development in areas of the brain that no other skill-learning activity can. There are many cognitive benefits to learning a second language – including improved listening skills and memory.
People choose to pursue English Language studies for many different reasons. It could be that you’re in a situation where it’s become necessary to enhance your English expertise. Perhaps you’ve recently moved to an English-speaking community and are eager to learn some basic conversational English that lets you socialise with your peers.
Perhaps you’re someone who already has proficiency in conversational English, but doesn’t have the specific vocabulary needed to enter a higher level education or workforce setting where English is widely spoken. Regardless of whether you intend to learn English for work, pleasure or for personal reasons, there are courses on offer that suit your lifestyle and goals. Be sure to research the level and desired learning outcomes that each individual course offers before signing up to ensure your chosen program contains content suited to your abilities and aims.
It’s also important to note that there are courses available that suit your personal learning style. There are a number of different schools of thought on how best to learn a second language, so it’s important to do your research into course structure and select the course that best suits the way you learn.
The main problem with commencing your English language studies is most likely knowing where on earth to start – with thousands of institutions offering this course, researching your options can be overwhelming to say the least. Below is a short list of some of our top choices to help get you started.
Boston University’s Center for English Language and Orientation Programs (CELOP) offers a large number of options that cater to your abilities and goals. Whether you’re looking for an intermediate-level English course, or a program focused on specific or professional purposes, such as Legal English. The location in Boston means students can immerse themselves in an English-speaking, student-focused culture while enjoying both, the activities the city has to offer, and on-campus student life. The university itself has an excellent academic reputation, boasting a place in the Top 40 universities nationwide.
The dedicated services available on-campus and at CELOP, including a highly-experienced academic team, a student support department and an academic transition department ensure that you’ll be well supported during your time at Boston University.
The American Language Institute offers both basic English and professional purpose English courses; each on a short-term and full semester basis. NYU is a world-renowned campus, the location of which allows students to immerse themselves in the famous cultural scene of New York City while studying their course. All faculty members boast extensive training and experience in the field of Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), as well as each having first-hand experience of living abroad themselves. When taking a step as frightening as moving to a new country where you don’t speak the language, it’s comforting to know you are surrounded by people who understand the challenges you face.
You can also undertake your own Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) diploma through NYU if you are passionate about teaching other people how to communicate through English.
The English Language Institute (ELI) at University of Michigan should be a strong contender if you’re hoping to learn English for academic study. The ELI offers a detailed range of academic courses, allowing you to home in on where it is you really want to improve your language skills – whether it’s pronunciation, grammar, or academic writing.
For those who cannot attend ELI in person, an online pre-arrival course is available for those hoping to brush up on their academic vocabulary prior to commencing their studies. For those completing a degree in English who hope to boost their confidence or brush up on the skills needed to socialise on-campus, the ELI offers a voluntary conversation clinic where students have the chance to speak English in a supportive and non-judgmental community.
The University of Connecticut’s American English Language Institute (UCAELI) encourages students to transition into mainstream English-taught courses as one of its main aims, standing as another strong contender for anyone hoping to pursue academic studies in English. Programs in general English and college preparation are on offer, as well as language support for students already undertaking mainstream courses. For those with existing work or family commitments, evening English courses are also available on-campus.
To help students immerse themselves in the local culture while learning the English language, UCAELI hosts a number of fun and educational trips and activities throughout the semester. Informal conversation with fluent English speakers is also facilitated through the voluntary ‘conversation partners’ program. UCAELI programs appear to offer an excellent balance of both work and play.
The English Language Institute (ELI) at the University of Florida offers a variety of short programs to prospective students varying from 6-14 weeks in length. Within these programs, students can select electives specific to their interests, including academic English and US culture. The ELI states in its mission that it’s committed to offering ‘superior instruction and the best possible opportunities for practice’ for students hoping to develop their English language proficiency.
The ELI’s faculty is made up of a diverse group of educators, all fully-qualified in ESL and education. For students who choose to continue their course beyond the first semester, scholarships are available to ease the financial burden of studying in a foreign country.
From the handful of schools we’ve explored in this article, it’s clear that there a variety of colleges across the US teaching numerous different types of English programs. Be thorough in your own research and you’re sure to find the program that’s the perfect fit for you.
*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International