Coursework for classes in business, law, engineering and the like are complex enough. For a student with a limited grasp of English, success is almost out of reach.
The University of Houston Language and Culture Center (LCC) is celebrating 35 years of placing students on the road to academic and professional success by helping them become proficient in English.
"The excitement begins on the day of registration when students are coming in from Angola, Mali, China, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Colombia," said LCC Director Joy Tesh. "They're all wondering at what level of proficiency they'll place and when they can get started."
Tesh has seen students from around the world-many sponsored by their governments-make the center's non-credit English proficiency program their first stop to university life. The six levels of the LCC's program are taught by experienced instructors with master's degrees in English as a second language or linguistics. Most have taught in other places around the world.
"We teach English as a second language, listening, speaking, reading and writing. We integrate into that pronunciation and grammar, and all the necessary components to prepare students linguistically and academically," she said. "We also place great emphasis on intercultural communication."
Most students are in the program about one year. Depending on the starting level of the student, the program can take less than one year or up to two years to complete. Students who successfully complete level six are able to apply for admission to UH without having to present a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score to show their English proficiency.
The program began in 1975 with 16 students, primarily from Venezuela. Today there are nearly 400 students representing upwards of 37 countries-an indication, Tesh says, of the students' desire to succeed and of the reputation of the LCC and UH. Many students have had family members or friends complete the program. While most students are college age, there are students in their 40s and 50s who are enrolled. To date, Tesh estimates more than 20,000 students have gone through their program.
Among them is Americo Santos from Angola. He hopes to study biotechnology at UH when he completes the LCC program.
"When I first came here, I only knew basic things, almost nothing, about English. Right now, I feel like I am ready for something bigger because I have been learning a lot."
For more information about the UH Language and Culture Center visit http://www.lcc.uh.edu/index.php.
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