English Second Language Support Service is in its First Year

Learning to understand a foreign language well enough to fit into a new social setting is difficult, so imagine having to master that language with enough proficiency to pass college courses and ace job interviews. Many international students still struggle with the English language, but some are overcoming the challenge through the University’s English Second Language (ESL) support service, a part of Tutoring and Writing Services in the Center for Student Success (CSS).

Dr. Charles Cotton, an adjunct political science professor, is a Master Tutor in Tutoring and Writing Services and instructs the ESL service that began last semester. Since the start of the program, Cotton tutors 10 international students over 12 hours a week, providing one-on-one assistance in learning proper English speech and writing.

Cotton said that the biggest challenge for many international students is un-learning the improper English that they may have been taught by other non-native English speakers. “[International students] have really kind of fallen into habits which they’ve become very accustomed to, which they considered to be fine or acceptable, and they might be acceptable talking with friends, but in terms of academic writing [they’re] not,” said Cotton.

Dorothy Cleary, Director of Tutoring and Writing Services, said that the number of international students who have come for help with writing and grammar has increased, contributing to the need for an ESL service. When Cotton applied for the open Master Tutor position, it all fell into place.

“This is an opportunity to give them one-on-one attention which they very much appreciate, and again, it’s all tutoring,” said Cleary.

Cotton said that the support service does not focus on the content that the students are writing about but rather their writing skills and how they express ideas and opinions.

Students of all grade levels from freshmen to graduate, have come to the Tutoring and Writing Center for help. Cleary said that one student who has been a part of the ESL service just recently accepted a job offer. “He came, he sought the support, he worked in Career Services with job interviews, the whole bit and he accepted a job offer just last week. He had two offers and he had to pick one or the other,” said Cleary. 

Cotton also helps international students prepare for the American citizenship exam so they can officially become citizens after their time at the University. The citizenship test includes an oral examination of the English language, so Cotton focuses on their accents and pronunciation of English words.

“I heard [Cotton] once say, ‘I’m going to make you sound like an American,’” said Cleary, laughing.

Cotton said that the students are all for it, both in and out of the classroom. “My Civic Engagement class is on mentoring people for the citizenship test, becoming naturalized citizens,” said Cotton. “The first day, their eyes lit up. They’re like, ‘oh this is perfect, you’re going to help us!’” To Cotton, this support service is the first step for students to get where they want to be.

Not only is Cotton well educated in teaching the English language, he has a passion for it as well. While he has taught political science for three years he has been teaching ESL for seven years, both locally and in Spain.

“It’s something that I hope to do as long as I can. I hope to do both careers in tandem because it’s special to me,” said Cotton. “You’re able to interact with people who really want to learn and really want to improve their situation and their lives, and I know firsthand the difficulty of living somewhere where you don’t speak the language.”

Many of the international students taking advantage of the ESL service come from the athletics department, though Cleary would like to reach students outside of that realm. Cleary and Cotton are hopeful because of the reactions and overall attitudes of their current students.

“They definitely have more confidence when they come back,” said Cleary. “They see it as such a positive thing and it makes their life better here at Monmouth so we’re going to just keep moving in that direction.” She added that the ESL service supports students during their time at the University while preparing them for the future.

Cotton added, “There are students who were hesitant at first to come but now they’ve seen really positive results and now I don’t think they could imagine not coming.”

Derrick Edney, a senior sociology major came to the University from Ghana and is involved with the ESL support in Tutoring and Writing Services. “I just took Civic Engagement in order to graduate and I got in touch with Professor Cotton,” he said. “We talked about English tutoring and I felt it would help me to improve my grammar and writing.” He added that he sees progress in his writing because of the support service.

Busy schedules sometimes interfere with students’ interest in the ESL support. Cotton said that some students have come once to meet with him and wish they could come more often while others are able to make time to learn.

“I know that there are definitely a lot of motivated people here, I see it every day here with the people I tutor, but also in my courses,” said Cotton. “I see that there is a drive and a willingness to work and take advantage of the things that we have here.”

The most important thing to Cleary and Cotton is for students to be aware of the service. Besides those who Cleary has contacted directly, many students and faculty do not realize the resource that is available to them through Tutoring and Writing Services.

Students who are interested in learning more about the ESL support service can call Dorothy Cleary in Tutoring and Writing Services at 732-263-5721 or email dcleary@monmouth.edu.

IMAGE TAKEN from cronkitenewsonline.com