How the English Language Institute Helps International Students Learn the English Language

Story by Silas Letter, photos by Hunter Dood

The English Language Institute (ELI) is a language school within Central Michigan University that seeks to help international students on campus learn the English language.

According to Intern Director Jessica Harman, the program has two parts; an intensive English program where students are taught English for 20 hours per week, and then a dual-program where students will take some English classes alongside their regular classes.

ELI Intern Director Jessica Harmon

In addition to the English classes that ELI provides, there is the Conversation Partners Program, which pairs ELI students with staff, CMU faculty or students that are fluent or native English speakers.

“They meet about once a week and at a variety of different settings, whether they are at Starbucks or off campus. They can talk about different topics,” Harman said. “Our students typically like to do different activities with their partners: going shopping, to the grocery store or to any sorts of clubs. It’s something they like to do because they still learn English, while doing an activity that helps them take that edge off of being required to just talk in English face-to-face.”

Syed Rizvi is a graduate engineering student from Pakistan who has enrolled in the Conversation Partners Program.

“Although I am a graduate student and will be here for a while, CPP is the best way to begin with cultural exchange. It an opportunity to learn and inspire at the same time,” Rizvi said.

There are 71 students who are currently enrolled in ELI— most of whom come from China and Saudi Arabia, with a few others traveling from Korea, some countries in Africa and South and Central America.

“We found a lot of success with this program because there seems to be an interest in international students across campus,” Harman said. “Whether that’s older faculty members, staff members or even students, there’s just an interest in other cultures.”