Four-week session aims to teach students English

Roberto Hodge, Multicultural Editor

Students who may not traditionally be proficient in speaking English will now be able to learn the language through intense four-week sessions on the first floor of Thomas Hall in the newly opened language company.

Kevin Vicker, the director of international students and scholars, said getting The Language Company on campus was a three-year process and has been a joint effort from his office, the International Education Council, and the administration of Eastern.

Part of the process of bringing the company to campus was having talks with administration, interviewing companies to find one that fit with Eastern, and making sure those companies were accredited, Vicker said.

“The idea is to help the students also (feel) welcome in Charleston, stay and get their degree,” Vicker said.

Vicker said a center similar to this was on campus, but it was not sustainable and closed in 2004. He said faculty has been pushing for extensive English courses to meet the growing need from students.

“It makes us competitive with other institutions,” Vicker said.

Vicker said students who are proficient at speaking English could get involved with The Language Company from 3:10 to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for its Café Conversation Hour.

Students participating in the hour could have informal conversations with those who do speak English, which is another way of helping them speak the language, Vicker said.

The center’s goal is to provide intensive English courses that will prepare students for success in a university setting. It can also assist students with housing.

Brenda Robati, the president of The Language Company, said it would provide English as a second language from a level of zero to whatever is necessary for them to succeed in graduate level studies in American schools.

Students must go through nine levels, and for Eastern, students must have completed the ninth in order to be fully admitted; however, students who are not proficient in the langue to that level will be admitted on a “conditional” basis until they complete level nine.

Robati said two students are currently in the lower levels of the program and they must complete a total of 32 weeks, which is 700 hours of instruction, and 25 hours a week in class in order to complete the ninth level.

Students will be able to take courses in reading, writing, grammar, speaking and listening.

“It’s very intense,” she said.

The students must apply, go through The Language Company and take a placement test, which is where they will find out what level they place. Level one is basic English survival skills such as asking for help, counting and directions; level nine is a research paper on any topic of their choice, Robati said.

Robati said students who complete the nine levels may also take advanced levels of English, which will prepare them for graduate school.

Currently, 15 schools in the nation are participating in this under the company and most are in the Midwest and East Coast regions of the United States.

With the center just opening and having two students admitted, only one instructor is teaching, but the group hopes to get more as students come.

Lauren Schuberth, an English as a second language instructor, said teaching students how to speak the language is a great way to get involved with different types of cultures.

Schuberth said she spent three years over seas before coming back to the United States, and one of the hardest parts about teaching English to other students is the pronunciation and enunciation. She added even explaining to students what a noun and adjective is a challenge because not only does she have to explain what those words are, she has to define what they mean.

“It makes classes interesting when people are so different from one another,” Schuberth said.

Schuberth said not only will she teach them about the English language, but also about American culture and life skills.

Charles Asche, the director of The Language Company, said the center will also help students experience college life with trips to the movie theater, larger cities and Wal-Mart. Ashe said the group has already made a trip to the Lincoln cabin.

“Eastern has been very welcoming,” Asche said. “We try to give (students) a slice of life in terms of the Charleston community, Eastern and larger cities.”

Roberto Hodge can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]