The best places for learning
Choosing an ESL school can be hard for people who are relatively new to North America. If you or someone you know wants to study English as a second language in the United States or Canada, be sure to consider the pros and cons of a number of different schools before making a final decision.
Some schools offer a much better ESL education than others, and asking a few simple questions can help you make the right choice for your own unique situation. Does the school follow international standards and practices? Is it a member of an international standards organization? Are the teachers at the school all certified to teach English as a second language?
The Qualities of a Good ESL School
Some things you will want to look for in an ESL school include:
- Teachers who have TESOL or TESL certification;
- Small class sizes, so you can get close, personal attention from the instructor;
- Teachers who are sensitive to your own cultural background;
- A flexible curriculum that includes preparation for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language);
- Extra help features, such as a conversational partnering program;
- Availability of student advisors and additional tutoring.
Other Things to Look For
In many cases, it's a good idea to attend ESL classes at an accredited university or college. In such a place, the ESL education is certain to be legitimate. For those who choose to attend a smaller or independent ESL school, there is always a concern that the school may not provide a relevant education.
Here are some steps you can take to help ensure the school you are investigating is legitimate and the education it provides is of a high quality:
- Ask if you can observe a class in progress. This way you'll be able to observe the instructor in action and see how he or she interacts with students. If the school refuses to let you observe a class, it may be because they aren't confident in the quality of education they provide.
- Find out if the school and its teachers are affiliated with a nationally or internationally recognized body, such as the Teachers of English as a Second or Other Language (TESOL). The U.S. houses the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors (NAFSA), Teachers of English as an Additional Language (TEAL), but each state may have their own association for language teachers. In Canada, there are three umbrella organizations: the Private English Language Schools Association (PELSA), the Canadian Association of Private Schools (CAPLS), and the Council of Second Language Programs in Canada (CSLPC). Many of these bodies have strict guidelines that must be met for membership.
Even if you have passed the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), you may not feel completely confident in your ability to speak English. Before applying to an online college or university, it might be a good idea to find a tutor to help you brush up on your skills. In many cases, only a small amount of tutoring is needed for professionals and students to become comfortable using English - and this may be all it takes for you to get a promotion or pass the university requirements that have been giving you trouble.
It can be difficult to find good resources for learning ESL on the Internet. In fact, there are probably far more bad resources than there are good. Bad resources include outdated quiz programs and "free" virtual courses. When it comes to online education, you get what you pay for - but don't be discouraged, there are some excellent and affordable schools out there that can help you learn English or refine your language skills. Have a look around and be sure to examine each school's website with a critical eye.