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SMC|Academic Programs|ESL|What's the difference between academic ESL Dept and English Dept classes?

What's the difference between academic ESL Dept and English Dept classes?

If you are a non-native speaker of English and have lived here for many years, you may have fluent speaking skills, BUT you may have ESL errors in your writing.  You need to correct these errors to be successful in your future classes and career, and our ESL courses are specifically designed to help you do that.

There are many similarities between academic ESL and English Dept courses:  

  • CLASS SIZE:  Both ESL Dept. and Eng. Dept. classes have the same number of students (writing courses = 25; other courses = 35).

  • CLASS ACHIEVEMENT GOALS:  Both ESL and Eng. Dept. writing classes at the same level have similar academic purposes. "C level" courses focus on success with paragraph and beginning essay writing skills; "B level" courses strengthen high intermediate essay development and aim toward more sophisticated reading comprehension; "A level" courses like Eng 1 emphasize advanced writing techniques such as research paper writing and documentation of sources.

  • CLASS CREDIT:  Both ESL and Eng department classes offer the same number of credits and require the same number of hours of study for similar courses (eg. ESL21A/English 21A = 3 hrs/week and 3 units).  

There are also important differences between academic ESL and English Dept courses: 

  • TRANSFERABILITY:  While four-year colleges and universities assign the same credit to courses offered by both the ESL and English departments, ESL Dept. students receive up to 8 units of transfer credit for ESL 11B, ESL 21A, ESL 21B, and ESL 25.  Transfer credit is not given for Eng. Dept. courses below the level of Eng 1.

  • INSTRUCTORS:  All ESL instructors have advanced degrees and practical training in applied linguistics, language acquisition, and second language teaching.  Our instructors are familiar with and prepared to work with students on the special problems that learners of English as a second (or third or fourth!) language encounter.  All of our ESL instructors have studied other languages; many have spent time living in other countries, and, as part of their training, many have been international students themselves at one time in their lives, so they understand well the challenges of learning a second language in the country where that language is spoken. 

  • COURSE CONTENT:  Although the academic goals of ESL and English classes are similar, ESL teachers interpret these goals somewhat differently.  They can anticipate what your non-native reading, vocabulary, grammar, listening, speaking, and writing concerns are and prepare course materials accordingly.  Reading and discussion materials appeal to a variety of cultural experiences and are chosen especially for the needs of a second language learner. These include:

    • group work on a daily basis that allows students the necessary practice in speaking/listening,
    • language-teaching methods specifically designed for non-native speakers,
    • focus on grammar errors most frequently made by non-native speakers,
    • instruction in vocabulary and culturally-connected terms that non-native speakers may be unfamiliar with,
    • preparation for American academic life and information to help students better understand U.S. culture.
  • CLASS COMPOSITION AND ENVIRONMENT:  Because ESL courses are comprised of non-native speakers, students have the opportunity to interact with classmates who share similar goals and concerns.  ESL students find they have a lot in common with their classmates, but they also learn a lot about cultures different from their own in an environment of mutual respect and understanding.