Not only will it help diversify Western’s campus, it will help international students settle in, providing English language instruction alongside integrated means of cultural acclimatization. What’s more, it will be a research venue, providing useful information on linguistic English language instruction and the needs of international students on campuses everywhere.
Housed in the Faculty of Education, Western’s new English Language Centre officially launched Monday. The centre will, over the next three years, give some 150 academically qualified international students the opportunity to study English while studying at Western.
What’s more, the teaching methods and findings from staff, faculty and graduate students set to work with this diverse cohort will provide a basis for research-based evidence meant to improve future instruction of English as a second language.
Under the academic direction of psycholinguistic researcher Stephen Bird, the centre will help international students succeed by enhancing their English proficiency and cultural competence, said Faculty of Education Dean Vicki Schwean.
“The centre will be nothing less than the best in this country. We aim to offer the most contemporary, research-informed English language program, delivered by highly qualified instructors,” she said, noting students would be in academic classes across campus, in addition to English language classes in the centre.
Schwean noted it is sometimes not enough to provide basic language instruction when international students are studying a variety of disciplines across campus. Because of this, the centre will work closely with faculties to ensure discipline-specific language is considered when teaching English to Western’s newcomer students.
Western President Amit Chakma echoed Schwean’s sentiments, saying the success of students is dependent not only on their English language skills, but also on their cultural competence.
“If students are better prepared, they will be successful, especially as they go through a transition period, which becomes a greater challenge if you’re coming from a different context, academic or cultural context,” he said.
Le Chen, a research assistant to Matt Bazely, the centre’s administrative director, said she is excited for the launch, herself seeing some of the benefits it will provide.
“Being an international student myself, I’ve experienced the challenges as well as excitements of the ‘newcomers.’ The (centre) prepares international students not only for academic success, but also acculturation to their disciplinary community and beyond,” she said.
“The program will serve as a bridge in students’ transition, both academically and socially. The programs will also be research-based, ensuring the instruction and curriculum (is) informed with the latest research evidence in order to better accommodate students’ needs and ensure their success.”
Bazely noted the English Language Centre fits perfectly with Western’s plans to diversify its campus and engage on an international stage.
“Our students come to us to learn English, but what they will gain is more profound,” he said.
Roughly 60 students are expected to come to the centre this September.