Language acquisition has four parts—learning to speak, to read, to write, and to comprehend in the language. College studies can help the foreign-language learner master all four parts of language acquisition. Here are four habits that English-as-a-second-language (ESL) learners should develop. They’ll help them not only learn the material for their major, but they’ll also build their English-language skills as well.
1. Use Studies as Vocabulary Builder
All career paths have certain words that are associated with that field. In some senses, these fields become a language within a language. For example, theater majors learn what upstage and downstage mean; anthropology/ archaeology majors learn what artifacts are; and educational technology majors learn about Bloom’s taxonomy.
Interacting with people day to day will help the ESL student learn how to find the coffee shop or where the school’s office is. Studying the words associated with their majors helps ESL students learn advanced vocabulary.
One of the benefits of immersion language study is that the foreign-language speaker is surrounded by the language. For example, a trip to the grocery store can be educational: It shows the language-learner what things are in context.
That’s really where technology and online education has become the equalizer. Most online classes feature videos which require the language learner to play a couple of times to comprehend. It’s like the ESL student is being immersed.
Videos show the language in context. Even better, courses of study like Rutger’s social work online degree teach the ESL student advanced, career-related English words while allowing that student to be completely immersed via video in the language. Any major that provides these elements gives the foreign-language learner double benefit.
3. Use Repetition
According to an article on Tech Crunch, language acquisition comes from reviewing a new language again and again. The proper study of language builds on what comes before. ESL students can make flashcards of words they don’t recognize from their textbooks. They can can then review few at a time when they have a few minutes to spare.
4. Write in English
Most college majors require students to do a great deal of writing. ESL students can take advantage of this by spending extra time on written assignments. If the professor has office hours, then ESL students should talk to their professors about their writing during office hours. Additionally, many colleges provide students with a writing lab. These are staffed with English majors. ESL students can use this lab not only write clearer arguments for their essays, but to master English.
True language mastery can take years. For the ESL student, going to college offers a couple of benefits. Not only do the four habits outlined here help them gain the skills necessary to do the work in their major, but they also help them master English in the process.
Ani Oaks is a freelance writer and web enthusiast. You can read some of her published work on her Google+ page.