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Language Barriers Falling in EMU’s Intensive English Program

EMU English Class

When Fanty Polanco immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic five years ago, she spoke no English.

But three years in Eastern Mennonite University’s Intensive English Program has made the 31-year-old fluent in the language and ready to take the next step in securing a career.

“Now, I have a big plan to become a dental hygienist,” Polanco said. “The program is amazing.”

The expansion of IEP’s recruiting efforts next year may help the program serve more students like Polanco, according to the program’s director, Kathleen Roth, a driving force behind a new partnership among EMU and four other Mennonite institutions.

Students at the other four schools under the Mennonite Education Agency will screen admissions applications and recommend international students to EMU’s program.

The institutions involved in the three-year partnership with EMU are Bethel College, Bluffton University, Goshen College and Hesston College.

“We are a precollegiate program that teaches intensive English to prepare students to study in an English medium,” Roth said.

This month, an agreement also was made final between EMU and Bridgewater College that facilitates the same recruiting partnership.

According to Anne Marsh, coordinator of Bridgewater’s Center for International Education, the college will screen students and recommend those who may benefit from the English immersion courses.

The program serves a wide range of students, from professionals to those who want to pursue or continue school in the U.S. or need to learn English for their job at home, to those who want to learn English for personal reasons. Roth is not sure exactly how much the new partnership will affect the program’s enrollment, but said even small numbers would make a difference.

“A lot of these schools have not been able to recruit internationally,” she said.

EMU’s program began in 1989 to support international students wishing to study in America. The classes emphasize listening, speaking, reading, writing and grammar.

Currently, 54 students — half of them international students here for the summer, and the other half immigrant or refugee students living in the U.S. — are enrolled in EMU’s summer IEP program.
The international students represent seven nations and the immigrant or refugee students hail from 14 countries.

“It really helped me,” said Zyad Alqurnas, 24, an international student from Saudi Arabia. “My English skills are improving day after day.”

Courtesy Daily News Record, June 19, 2012

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