Learn English: Improve Your English at University

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By Oshitha Narangoda
Last updated on August 10, 2023

If you want to study in the US, you will need to learn spoken English and English grammar. US universities and colleges will help you improve your English skills while you study. Read on to learn about English programs at Shorelight universities!

A group of international students holding textbooks walk and laugh together on a city campus

English is the most commonly spoken language in the US, with more than 250 million native speakers across the country. As an international student, you may not be confident about your English, but do not worry — US universities and colleges are ready to support you. US institutions foster a diverse and inclusive environment, helping you learn English so you can connect with your peers, communicate with ease both in class and out, and succeed at an internship!

As your English improves, you can progress through your academic program, foster new relationships, and broaden your explorations. So, learning English while you study for your degree will help you adjust to life in the US with ease.

What Are the Types of English Language Programs Available at US Universities?

At US universities, you may encounter two types of English programs:

  1. General English

  2. Academic English

What Is General English?

General English refers to the language used in day-to-day conversations. It is non-technical English, with classes geared toward building the social skills necessary to succeed outside the classroom.

In a General English program, you will learn how to interpret and carry out informal conversations in common social situations, such as:

  • Ordering a meal

  • Inquiring about the weather

  • Asking for directions

  • Carrying out transactions

What Is Academic English?

Academic English teaches students how to use English that they may encounter in a classroom or similar study setting. Lessons focus on enhancing academic writing skills such as:

  • Correctly using citations

  • Understanding common ways to organize research

  • Mapping proper sentence structure

Academic English courses may be mandatory for non-native speakers to better prepare them for their academic degree program. 

Interested in improving your English or want to know how to learn English for the classroom? Shorelight works with top-ranking universities that offer English language courses in both general and academic English.

Learn General English at Shorelight Universities

General English programs at Shorelight universities focus on student success, and typically have accessible minimum entry requirements. Once enrolled, international students take part in a variety of experiential learning opportunities to build their spoken and grammatical English skills.

Here are several Shorelight universities that offer General English courses to international students.

Adelphi University

Adelphi University offers students the opportunity to improve their skills in practical English with a curriculum aligned with the Common European Framework for Languages (CEFR).

Program structure

Total weekly classroom hours: 20

  • 10 hours: Applied Integrated Skills, consisting of listening, speaking, reading, and writing

  • 10 hours: Grammar in Context, consisting of mixed-genre writing with a focus on grammar

This is a non-credit course that can be taken over a period of eight or 16 weeks during fall and spring, or 11 weeks during summer.

Auburn University

The General English course at Auburn University focuses on strengthening English language skills as well as enhancing students’ knowledge of US culture. 

Program structure

Total weekly program hours: 20

  • 5 hours: Reading and Writing, with a focus on high-interest topics

  • 5 hours: Speaking and Listening, through collaborative learning activities

  • 10 hours: Topics in American Culture, with classroom activities and visits to local sites and events

While there are no academic or language requirements to qualify for entry into the General English course, program length and curriculum may depend on English proficiency.

This is also a non-credited 16-week course that is offered over a shorter duration (eight weeks) in summer.

University of the Pacific

The General English course at the University of the Pacific is divided into two levels: upper and lower. Each level focuses on improving students’ skills and knowledge of US culture.

Program Structure

Total weekly program hours: 20 

  • 5 hours: Reading and Writing, with a focus on high-interest topics

  • 5 hours: Speaking and Listening, including skills to be successful in and out of the classroom

  • 10 hours: Topics in American Culture, with a focus on themes and activities including movies, music, sports, and literature, and visits to local cultural or historic sites

Coursework at Pacific may cover the following sample topics:

  • Presentation skills

  • Conversation skills

  • English for business

This is a non-credit eight-week course that can be taken as part of Pacific’s Intensive English Program.

Learn Academic English at Shorelight Universities

Develop your English-language skills and support your educational and professional growth through lessons tailored to your language proficiency. Shorelight universities provide resources and collaborative exercises so you can excel in your coursework.

University of Illinois Chicago (UIC)

UIC’s Academic English course aligns with the semester, allowing students to learn alongside their other first-year classes. Curriculum spans from beginner to advanced proficiency levels, with lessons organized as follows:

Total weekly classroom hours: 20

  • Listening and Speaking—listen to conversations, practice various presentation styles, learn note-taking skills, and more

  • Reading and Writing—explore various genres of writing and learn citation techniques

The course is non-credited, but is required in order to complete your degree program. It can be taken over a period of 16 weeks or as an intensive eight-week course. A 10-week summer program is also available.

University of South Carolina (UofSC)

Available for both undergraduate and graduate students, UofSC’s two Academic English tracks are part of the International Accelerator Program.

17-week (one semester) program:

  • Academic English—strong English language support to set the foundation for your academic studies

Eight-week intensive program:

  • Academic English Session II—strong English language support at an accelerated pace

Gonzaga University 

The English as a Second Language (ESL) program offered at Gonzaga University’s English Language Center has helped more than 8,500 international students achieve their English language goals. With the ESL program, you can attend field trips, take part in activities such as Global Conversation (an initiative that offers conversation practice with fellow ESL students), engage in collaborative projects, and more.

International students who are non-native English speakers greatly benefit from improving their English-language skills. Whether you want to learn English grammar or practice your conversational skills in English, we have a program that can set you up for success.

See how Shorelight can help you learn English to succeed in the classroom and beyond >