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Part 11: Learning English - 2001-09-10


A student in Vietnam asks about foreign graduate students who teach at American universities but do not speak English well.

This can be a big problem. American college students sometimes say they cannot understand the way foreign graduate students speak English. They also say foreign graduate students sometimes cannot effectively answer questions in class.

American universities recognize this problem and are taking steps to solve it. For example, Princeton University in New Jersey requires foreign graduate students to pass an English speaking test before they are permitted to teach. Those who fail the test attend a language program. Then they take the test again. Those who continue to fail the test are not permitted to teach until their English improves.

Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, also requires an English speaking test for foreign graduate students who want to teach. Harvard University has an English training program for all its international students.

Boston University in Massachusetts recently expanded its training program. Foreign graduate students attend a two-week class designed to teach about cultural differences and improve English speaking. The students take English speaking tests and are placed in one of three groups. Those students who do well on the test require no more training. Others attend weekly classes to improve their English. Foreign students with the most problems attend English class two times a week and do not teach until their speaking improves.

The Pennsylvania State University also requires an English speaking test. Then it places the foreign students in classes to improve their English. Some of these include classroom situations in which the foreign student must act as the teacher.

Many other American colleges and universities have similar English classes for international students. You can find out about them when you first seek information about attending college in the United States.