Things to Know about the ESL Program

1. How many students are enrolled in the ESL Department's program?

Including the day and evening programs, there are approximately 350 students enrolled in the ESL program.

2. What languages do the ESL professors speak?

Although speaking more than one language is not essential in order to teach English as a Second Language, most ESL faculty members are bilingual. It is helpful to have studied another language because it helps the professors understand better how their students learn.

3. What language is spoken in class?

English is the only language spoken in ESL classes. In a beginning class, the instructor must speak very slowly, repeat frequently, and use simple language. Some students do not understand everything for the first few weeks, but through repetition, the ESL students' comprehension improves.

4. How do ESL faculty members communicate with students who come from so many different countries?

Because the language used in the ESL classroom is English, the ESL faculty members communicate with their students by using simple language, speaking slowly and clearly at first, frequently "reframing" sentences for better comprehension, giving numerous examples, and using visual aids.

5. Where do the students in the ESL Department come from?

Students in the ESL Department come from nations around the globe. There are many students from Latin American countries along with those from Caribbean nations where English isn't the native language. Also, there are numerous representatives from the Russian republics. Several students come from the Middle East. Southeast Asian students and those from South Asia and African nations also are members of ESL classes.

6. Why are these foreign students here?

While some students are here only to study and will eventually return to their native countries, most have come with their families to live permanently as educational and economic advantages afforded to them in the U.S. are not available in their native countries.

7. How are students placed into a particular level ?

Prior to the beginning of classes, new students are given a placement test consisting of a written sample, which is evaluated by a faculty member. Students are placed in levels 1, 2, 3, or 4 according to this sample. In addition, on the first day of class, a grammar-based placement test is administered to all students to ensure proper placement.

8. How is the ESL program organized?

The E.S.L. program has four levels. Each level has two sections except Level 4 with one.

  • Level 1 classes include grammar, reading and writing, and conversation.
  • Level 2 classes include grammar, reading and writing, and conversation.
  • Level 3 classes include grammar, reading, and writing.
  • Level 4 classes include grammar, reading, and writing.

Levels 3 & 4 meet five times a week for a total of 15 hours and cover one semester each.

Levels 1 and 2 meet twice a week for a total of 6 hours and cover two semesters each.

There is a well-organized and well-staffed tutoring program to support the students.

9. What types of textbooks are used in the program?

Levels 1 and 2 have individual texts for grammar, reading / writing, and conversation with supporting workbooks. Levels 3 and 4 have an individual text for grammar with an accompanying paper or electronic workbook; separate reading and writing texts are also required in levels 3 and 4. All students are asked to have an American English dictionary along with a dual-language dictionary.

Each instructor may choose individual texts to fit her style of teaching. Usually, the instructors at each level work together to share ideas and comments about the merits of texts.

10. Do all students whose first language isn't English take ESL?

No. Only those students who are still not proficient enough in English to meet the requirements of college-level courses offered at STCC take ESL classes.

11. What is the grading policy used in the ESL Department?

The ESL Department uses the same grading policy as all other departments at the college. At the end of the semester, students receive written letter grades of A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D, D-, F, I, W, and Aud [audit] in accordance with the academic standards set forth by the college.

A student must pass all three ESL courses of each level with a C or better to pass a level. Students who fail or withdraw from an ESL course may take the course again. If after taking the course a second time, the student does not earn a passing grade of C, s/he may not repeat the course. No student may take the same course for a third time.

12. Can students repeat ESL courses?

Yes, students can repeat a level once if they have failed, withdrawn, or received a Grade of C- or lower. The ESL Department has a policy that students can repeat a level only one time.

13. Does financial aid cover ESL courses?

Levels 3 & 4 are eligible for Title IV financial aid. The financial aid guidelines limit the number of courses a student can take while s/he is enrolled in the ESL Department.

Levels 1 & 2 are not eligible for title IV financial aid.  Students pay $299 per semester + the cost of textbooks.

14. Initially, how are students referred to the ESL Department?

Many new students come to the ESL department at the recommendation of a friend or relative who is currently taking or has already taken our ESL classes. Additionally, students who are not native English speakers are often referred to ESL when they have scored below a certain level on the English Placement Test. At times students are also referred to us by other schools. For example, UMASS has ESL classes, but the University starts at a higher level than certain students can handle. Such students sometimes come to us in order to begin "at the beginning," so to speak.

15. Does the English Department ever refer students to the ESL Department?

Teachers of Review for College Writing [DWRT-099] will sometimes refer a student to ESL. This usually happens when a writing sample taken from a non-native English speaker on the first day of class contains so many errors in grammar and syntax that the student's needs would be better served in ESL classes. However, a student cannot be forced to take ESL. Developmental English teachers can only recommend it. The choice is the individual student's.

16. Are students referred to the ESL Department after taking the English Placement Test?

At times they are. As mentioned above in the answer to question #13, this usually happens only when a student whose native language is observed to be other than English has scored extremely low on the test. Unfortunately, some students who in fact should be referred to ESL slip through the cracks and go on to Review for College Writing, where they often experience great difficulty with the material.