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Foreign Language Learning—in English

ELC students wearing BYU shirts outside.

The English Language Center was created to teach English, but, according to two of its students, it offers so much more.

Every year hundreds of international students come to BYU, venturing away from everything they know to bravely do what many Americans often take for granted—learn English. As an extension to the BYU campus, the English Language Center (ELC) offers a rewarding yet strenuous program that teaches non-native English speakers written and spoken American English, a skill many aim to use in their future occupations. Beyond this, the ELC gives these international students the opportunity to experience life abroad, make connections with people from all over the world, and strengthen BYU’s campus community with their unique experiences and perspectives.

Welcome to the ELC

ELC students smiling in a classroom.
Photo by Ben McMurry

Located just west of BYU’s LaVell Edwards Stadium, the ELC provides a place for students, both English-speaking and not, to expand their capacities when it comes to language learning. While at the ELC campus, international students receive training to either start or improve their English learning while in an immersive environment. In class, students can practice speaking, reading, and writing in English with the help of native English speakers. Outside of class, ELC students also participate in social gatherings that encourage English practice with other ELC students. With 20 hours a week of schooling and additional social events on the side, ELC students leave the program with a newfound confidence in their English abilities and a supportive community of English learners.

The ELC also offers learning opportunities for native English speakers in the TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) program. For these students, ELC classrooms provide a space where they can practice the teaching methods learned over the course of their studies. ELC administrator Ben McMurry says, “The ELC adds a lab experience for TESOL teachers in training. It’s an unparalleled experience for BYU students to get practical teaching experience. It's truly experiential learning.”

English beyond the Classroom

Though the ELC’s primary purpose may be teaching English, this program offers its students so much more. Cristiano Ferreira, an ELC student who came from Brazil with his wife and three kids, joined the program with the hopes of improving his English skills to become a better teacher. He plans to finish schooling at the ELC and then apply to BYU’s English Literature MA program. Though difficult, his experience in Utah has helped him become a more confident learner. He says that while at the ELC, he can “see all of [the ELC students] struggling with some pronunciations and vocabulary, but it’s kind of motivating. You won’t step back because you can’t speak properly because everybody here’s the same way.”

A class of ELC students smiling in the classroom.
Photo by Ben McMurry

Many students at the ELC have also recognized this sense of community, including Crisley Serrano, a student from Ecuador. Serrano hopes to study English so she can join BYU as a communications student. She says, “I feel so comfortable here, and I love that there [are] a lot of international people. We are just like a big international family. We are so different [and come] from different countries [with] different languages, but we can understand each other because we’re in the same place trying to do the same thing.”

Enhancing the Campus Community

McMurry reminds us that though students in the ELC may have different curriculum and focuses than BYU students do, they remain integral part of BYU’s campus. He says, “The [English as a Second Language] students come from around world and add culture and diversity to our campus.” McMurry encourages BYU students to get involved in the Study Buddy program, in events at the ELC, or in the lives of ELC students and teachers to bring them into the BYU community. Above all, McMurry says, “If anyone ever wishes to help an ELC student in any way, they can reach out to us. Sometimes our students need sponsors, and sometimes they just need a friend.”

Check out the English Language Center website to learn how you can get involved today.