Due to the everyday use of the English language in classroom discussions, international student Azuma Mahiro initially found it challenging to adjust to the Long Beach State culture.
Now, almost five months after flying from Japan to continue her literature and film studies in CSULB, Mahiro gained confidence with the aid of the English as Second Language services on campus.
The Learning Center’s ESL language and writing tutoring services work with students on their academic journey through writing, development, grammar, reading, listening and speaking, giving the students the ability to proficiently communicate in English.
According to College Factual, there were approximately 2,400 international students who attended CSULB in 2020, a number that Alex Hoang, ESL language reading tutoring program coordinator, said continued to increase as COVID-19 restrictions in different countries were lifted.
“We enjoy working with the ESL student population because the vast majority of our students are very hardworking and it’s rewarding to see their growth,” Hoang said.
Mahiro said one of their most helpful services is the Conversation Lab, a round table discussion-like setting where students can drop in to talk with a volunteer and improve their pronunciation and vocabulary.
Unlike CSULB students’ active participation, in a lot of cultures, students are not expected to express their opinions in the classroom.
“At any given moment, you can have a student from Japan, Argentina, and Italy in the same lab, working on their speaking,” Hoang said. “So it’s a very unique experience that can build community and where students can encourage each other.”
“The Conversation Lab helps students develop that skill with one another,” Hoang added.
Like the students who seek support in the ESL program, the tutors and volunteers are also diverse individuals with different backgrounds, allowing them to support the students in various social and academic situations with understanding.
“The tutors also teach me new slang or new English expressions, like I didn’t know the shortcut of ‘by the way’ is BTW in text,” Mahiro said. “So going twice a week helps me be social and connect more with people in my time here.”
The program also works closely with the College of International Education and the English departments to connect resources to students who may need extra help, including support for students’ command of technology.
Hoang shared that a lot of students don’t know how to use Google because the website is not allowed in their country. Thus, they are walked through how to navigate the library, online library, BeachBoard and Canvas, as well as more resources that will help their success.
Students like Mahiro are encouraged to sign up for weekly appointments throughout the whole semester and during their time at CSULB via the Learning Center’s website, in order to have consistent development as they move forward in their careers.
“Like learning any language, it’s a process. It takes time and it’s not something that can be solved with one appointment,” Hoang said. “It’s amazing to see countless students that have come to us as a freshman who could barely speak English, and by the time they graduate, they’re very proficient, very confident, and they’re ready to go out into the working world.”