What should every (college) ESL student know?

What should every ESL student know?

Beats me. One size fits all philosophies often seem a bit strange to me. Can anybody really answer this question for every international student and ESL (English as a Second Language) college student? Really? Don’t circumstances, needs, and desires differ?

On the other hand, college and university administrators, ESL teachers, future college students, and current international ESL students constantly face this common question. What should every ESL student know?

Fortunately, braver and more confident souls feel comfortable answering this reasonable question. That’s why a small green and purple book, What Every ESL Student Should Know: A Guide to College and University Academic Success, caught my eyes at a recent English teachers’ conference in California. Kathy Ochoa Flores, the author, has both more confidence and deeper insight into this essential, yet puzzling, question. In 119 pages, she displays considerable wit while dispensing practical advice to international students and immigrants preparing for college.

“My students always want to know what they should do to learn English,” notes Flores in chapter 2. “I tell them to marry an American – one who is a native speaker and rich. That way, they can have someone to practice with every day, and they won’t have to worry about working and studying at the same time. Unfortunately, this advice does not work for most of my students.”

So Flores goes on to advocate, since many students are already married or too young to get married, to at least make some American friends. In bold print, she argues: “Native English speakers are everywhere. Use them. They are like free tutors.” How? Take the bus, sit down next to some nice looking American, and start talking. Seek out the elderly since they tend to have both more free time and might be lonely. Talk to children, meet a school counselor, and ask many questions. “Talk to the telemarketers who call you during dinner time, and ask them lots of questions about their products.” I completely agree.

This affordable book provides dozens of these imperative statements followed by detailed advice. Written in a clear manner, the concise format and friendly style make this book a wonderful book for newcomers to both the United States and American university classrooms. Easier to read, smaller in scope, and less than controversial than the popular book What’s Up, America?, this book serves a slightly different purpose. Both titles help international students adjust to American college campuses, but What Every ESL Student Should Know focuses more on survival skills. International counselors, university orientation coordinators, and even private intensive English language schools (IEPSs)  could provide a real service to their international students by including this thin book in their orientation sessions and pre-college materials. The minimum cost will pay for itself by reducing ESL student stress.

Meanwhile, future international students should find it and buy it. This “one size fits all” work offers enough tips to satisfy almost all ESL students – and even a sceptical ESL university teacher!

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