Head start in English for non-anglos

Head start in English for non-anglos McGill University

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McGill Reporter
March 22, 2001 - Volume 33 Number 13
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Home > McGill Reporter > Volume 33: 2000-2001 > March 22, 2001 > Head start in English for non-anglos

Head start in English for non-anglos

McGill's leadership has been clear about its goals for student enrolment. One of its chief aims is to attract a greater number of francophone students to the University. Another is to continue to draw students from around the world.

But no matter how academically gifted these students are, they all have to contend with something that's essential to the character of this place: the English language. For some, studying in English isn't much of a challenge. For others, it's a steep mountain to climb.

With that in mind, McGill is offering something new to undergraduates who are scheduled to begin their studies in the fall. Incoming francophone students and foreign students whose first language isn't English will have access this summer to credit courses designed by the English and French Language Centre with the newcomers' unique academic needs in mind. And McGill will be footing much, if not all, of the bill.

New students from Quebec who complete one of these courses will have the tuition and administrative fees associated with the course completely covered by McGill. International students who finish one of the courses will have their fees subsidized up to the level paid by Quebec students. This will hold true even if a student fails the course. But students have to choose between two different types of courses, either a three-credit course designed to help them process the type of information that professors deliver from their lecterns or a six-credit course that deals more with writing essays. Students are welcome to take both classes if they so choose, but the University will only subsidize one per student.

"If you study all your life in French and then you come to an English university, the experience can be overwhelming," says Réal Del Degan, director of the Office of the Vice-Principal (Academic), which is bankrolling the initiative. University is tough enough when you're fully comfortable with the language being used.

While students may write exams and essays in French if they so desire, the instructor giving the course is still conversing in the language of Shakespeare, Austen and, um, Eminem.

"The drop-out rate for students is highest during the first semester," notes Del Degan. "If things don't go well, if it's tougher than they had expected, students become disillusioned. If they can survive that first semester, things start to get easier."

Del Degan says the courses are designed to help give new non-English students an extra edge before they begin their degrees. The experience should also give them a realistic sense of what their English skills are like. According to Professor Hélène Riel-Salvatore, the director of the English and French Language Centre, students sometimes overestimate their abilities.

"Some francophone students have gone out west and successfully worked in summer jobs in English and they don't think it will be a big deal to come to an English university. But the types of demands that are placed on a language when you are waiting on tables or cleaning hotel rooms aren't the same as when you're sitting in a university classroom."

As is the case with most of the centre's offerings, courses will be broken up into sections catering to students with different levels. All students have to take a language placement exam before being registered in a course.

Riel-Salvatore says the summer courses in question are tailored to "the types of problems some of our students face in adapting to an English milieu."

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