English As a Second Language: Overview of Adult Education ESL Programs

Aug 17, 2018

Learn about the types of English as a Second Language (ESL) programs available to non-native English speakers. Find out where adults can take ESL classes.

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Program Information

English as a second language (ESL) classes are offered for new immigrants, college students, and other adults whose first language is something other than English. Classes are offered at varying levels of difficulty to match people's differing needs and prior proficiency in English. Programs can be made up of informal sessions that focus on conversation, or they may include more structured courses that focus on written and oral proficiency and offer credits. Once students have gained basic communication skills, they will be more able to find work or complete further adult education in the form of vocational training. Some ESL lessons may also involve a civics component, teaching students about the community around them.

ESL classes are typically offered in the evenings or on the weekends in order to fit their adult students' needs, with some programs provided for free or very low cost. These classes are available at a variety of institutions, such as community centers, community colleges, public schools, colleges, and universities. Let's get more information about ESL classes.

ESL Programs at a Glance

ESL programs are offered at the basic, intermediate, or advanced levels and generally last between eight and fifteen weeks. Most programs require students to complete classes and examinations on-campus rather than online. Basic programs focus on giving students the vocabulary to navigate common social situations, while higher-level classes prepare students for educational or employment opportunities.

Beginner ESL

Beginner classes are for those who speak little or no English. These classes focus on basic conversational English speaking and reading skills needed for survival. Vocabulary lessons might cover words needed for routine activities, such as catching a bus, renting an apartment, finding a job, and cashing a paycheck. Adults who complete a beginner program can move up to intermediate programs.

Intermediate ESL

Intermediate programs include instruction in English grammar and reading and are designed for adults who have good speaking skills, but who may need help with reading and writing in English. These programs prepare adult students for career training to enter the workforce or to move on to advanced English programs that can prepare them for college courses.

Advanced ESL

Advanced programs may be structured academic ESL classes. These classes are offered by colleges and universities and meet several times a week. Adult students can obtain the skills necessary to pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), which is sometimes required for non-native English speakers who want to attend U.S. colleges.

Some colleges and universities offer supplemental English courses for students whose English proficiency was sufficient to allow them to pass the TOEFL and gain admission but who may need additional language instruction to succeed in college. These courses can be subject-area specific. For example, an ESL class may focus on English terms in mathematics.

Whether you are looking to brush up on pre-existing skills or start from the beginning, ESL classes are widely available at many community and educational institutions and will be helpful in developing your English language skills. Students gain the linguistic tools required to manage everyday social interactions and to find employment in English-speaking areas.

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