The ESL Center continues its fight with the language barrier for second session

Caroline Henneman

The Kent State English as a Second Language (ESL) Center is preparing for its rigorous second session of classes. Students who come to Kent and do not speak English as their first language, are required to take ESL classes until they are proficient in five categories: reading, writing, grammar, listening and speaking.

Each of these skills have ten levels. International students take a placement test upon arrival to place each of their five skills into the appropriate level. When they finish all ten levels, students then reach courses that prepare them for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Students must pass this exam before they are allowed to take academic courses at Kent State.

The senior secretary of the ESL Center, Brittany Viton, said it’s a lot of “moving parts” and the courses are significantly more demanding than any other course offered at the university.

“It’s seven weeks and five days a week,” Viton said. “Think about trying to start classes, orienting yourself to campus, finding housing, setting up utilities and on top of all of that, you’re trying to learn the language you’ll be learning in for the next four or so years.”

Dr. Ryan Miller, an assistant professor for the Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) program, agrees that ESL courses are vigorous, estimating that students spend about five hours a day inside the classroom learning and another couple hours to practice their skills at home for the next day.

Though ESL courses are demanding, the center provides various ways to help students succeed on foreign soil and in a foreign language.

“Though we offer the sessions in seven week spans, it usually takes more than seven weeks to pass the TOEFL,” said ESL Director, Debbie Rozner.

She continues to explain that they offer seven week sessions so international students do not have to wait until the beginning of a new semester to begin their education. Now, students have five sessions throughout the year instead of three.

Another way the ESL center helps students in focusing their vocabulary skills on words used frequently in their majors is through Bridge Classes for students within levels eight through ten.

“Language is very broad, we try and focus in their skills to better prepare them for what they’ll see in the classroom,” Miller said. “For example, a lab report is completely different writing than a business plan.”

Both students and faculty struggle together through the development of language skills. Miller explained that nothing has driven him, or his colleagues, more than giving students the tools to succeed in the future.

“It’s frustrating,” Miller said. “But when these students hold Kent State diplomas in hand, the intense courses and time dedicated to their studies becomes worth all the time and practice.”

Caroline Henneman is a humanities reporter. Contact her at [email protected]