Many adult and further education institutions provide English courses, and many American universities hold summer and holiday English-language courses. Colleges and universities often run an American Language Program, which is a pre-academic English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) course for students whose native language isn’t English.
Obtaining a working knowledge or becoming fluent in English while living in the US is relatively easy, as you’re constantly immersed in the English language and have the maximum opportunity to practise (provided you don’t spend all your time speaking in your native tongue). However, if you wish to speak English fluently, you probably need to take lessons.
About the TOEFL
It’s usually necessary to have a recognised qualification in English or pass a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) in order to be accepted at a college or university. You can find out information about taking a TOEFL test by contacting the Educational Testing Service (www.ets.org/toefl). Foreigners who wish to study English full-time can enrol at one of the many English language centres at American universities where, provided you study for a minimum of 20 hours a week, you’re eligible for an F-1 student visa.
Most language schools offer a choice of classes according to your current language ability, how many hours you wish to study a week, how much money you plan to spend and how quickly you wish to learn. Courses vary in length from a week to six months and cater for all ages. Full-time, part-time and evening courses are offered by most schools, and many also provide residential courses (often with half board, consisting of breakfast and an evening meal), which are usually excellent value. If you must find your own accommodation, particularly in a major city, it can be difficult and expensive. Language classes generally fall into the following categories:
Language course fees
Course fees are usually calculated on a weekly basis. Fees vary considerably and depend on the number of hours tuition per week, the type of course, and the location and reputation of the school. Expect to pay $175 to $225 per week for a standard course and between $250 and $300 per week for an intensive course. Half board accommodation usually costs between $200 and $300 extra, depending on the location, and various self-catering options are generally available costing between $150 and $350 per week, depending on whether you want a shared or single room.
It’s possible to enrol at a good school for an all-inclusive (tuition plus half board accommodation), four-week, intensive course for as little as $400 per week. Total immersion or executive courses are offered by many schools and usually cost $2,500 or more per week. Not everyone is suited to learning at such a fast rate, even if they can afford it!
About private lessons
Whatever language you’re learning, don’t expect to become fluent in a short time unless you have a particular flair for languages or already have a good command of a language. Unless you desperately need to learn a language quickly, it’s probably better to spread your lessons over a long period. Don’t commit yourself to a long course of study (particularly an expensive one) before ensuring that it’s the correct course for you. Most schools offer a free introductory lesson and free tests to help you find your appropriate level. Many language schools offer private and small group lessons. It’s important to choose the right course, particularly if you’re studying English in order to continue with full-time education in the US and need to reach a minimum standard or gain a particular qualification.
You may prefer to have private lessons, which are a quicker but more expensive way of learning a language. The main advantage of private lessons is that you learn at your own speed and aren’t held back by slow learners or left floundering in the wake of the class genius. You can advertise for a private teacher in local newspapers and magazines, on shopping mall notice boards, at town halls, libraries, universities or schools, and through your (or your spouse’s) employer. Your friends, colleagues or neighbours may also be able to help you find a suitable teacher.
This article is an extract from Living and Working in America. Click here to get a copy now.