Have you been thinking of studying in America? You’re not alone!
There are more than one million international students in the United States. Not only that, but hundreds of thousands of new student visas are issued every year!
And most of these international students are like you. They are non-native English speakers from regions such as East Asia, South America and the Middle East.
Many of these students say that coming to America to study English is the best decision they ever made. I know this, because I’ve spent the last few years working with ESL students in America. Coming here for English education has truly been a life-changing experience for so many of the students I’ve taught.
Why Should You Study English in the USA?
There are so many different “upsides” (advantages) to studying English in the USA. The benefits vary depending on your learning needs and what you want to get from the experience, of course. But here are a few things English students commonly enjoy in America.
Most obviously, America is a native English-speaking country. That means you can get a good English immersion experience, beyond the English immersion you could get at home.
The United States isn’t just any native English-speaking nation. It’s one of the “big six” English-speaking countries. These six nations set the global standard for English. American and British English are the most widely spoken and accepted forms of the English language worldwide.
Out of these “big six” countries (The United States of America, The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand), America has by far the largest population, which means that it also has a huge number of native speakers.
America is a very diverse place. Big cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles offer the most diversity. But even mid-sized cities and some small towns offer chances to interact with people from all over the world. This means you don’t just get language education. You get multicultural education too.
This multiculturalism can also help you feel less homesick. In America, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to meet people—and enjoy culture and food—from your home country.
Make international professional connections
Since America is so international, you may also get chances to make global business connections. You’ll have the opportunity to practice global business English through these connections. Through the language you learn and the people you meet, you just might have business opportunities long after you finish your studies.
Lots of support
The United States is one of the top destinations for English learners. Because of this, there are lots of resources, both online and off, to help you find and pursue study opportunities in the USA:
- Universities. There’s a good chance that universities in your home country have programs that can help you get to the States for English study.
- International study abroad websites. Websites like StudyUSA and International Student can help you explore your options.
- International education organizations. Also be sure to check out groups like NAFSA and the Council on International Educational Exchange.
- The US government. The American government itself provides information and support for people who want to come to the US to study English. You can get government help through the Department of State’s EducationUSA website and through American embassies around the world.
How to Learn English in America: The Complete Guide to Studying English in the USA
Now that we’ve discussed why you might want to learn English in the United States, let’s look at how and where you can do it!
Remember that we’re talking about a really big country, so there are many, many English programs and courses out there. So we’ll focus mostly on the kinds of English learning options that are available to you as an international student, although I’ll still mention a few specific programs to give you some examples.
But what you see here definitely isn’t a full list of all the English learning programs out there. It’s just designed to point you in the right direction and help you find what will work best for you.
Remember that you don’t have to wait until you get to America to study English. You can start learning right from home and bring the immersion to you with FluentU.
Unlike traditional language learning sites, FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the English language and culture over time. You’ll learn English as it’s spoken in real life.
FluentU has a variety of engaging content from popular talk shows, nature documentaries and funny commercials, as you can see here:
FluentU makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you'll see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It even reminds you when it’s time to review! Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning with the same video.
You can start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, by downloading the app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
We’ll start with English learning options at different universities, then move on to explore some different English learning possibilities through English academies.
Studying English at American Universities
If you’ve already finished high school (or are about to), English study at a US university should be one of your top options.
When it comes to university-level English study, you have two major options: Intensive English Programs (IEPs) or English Language Transition Programs (ELTs). So, what’s the difference between an IEP and an ELT program? In terms of the quality of study, the differences are pretty small. But there are some differences in how IEPs and ELTs are structured.
IEPs vs. ELTs
IEPs offer more hours of study per week on average. However, that’s just a general rule. In fact, you’ll find many IEPs and ELTs that offer almost the exact same English courses and study schedules.
The real difference is that English Language Transition Programs are designed to help you transition to regular degree studies at the host university. If you enroll in an ELT, you’ll be expected to start a regular 4-year degree program in America once your English is good enough for regular US university study.
In contrast, in IEPs, mastering English is the main goal, and not just a first step toward getting an American degree. So they’re a better option for English learners who want short-term study in America.
How to find a university English study program in the USA
Both IEPs and ELTs are becoming more and more common in America. Most universities have these programs. But these programs look different on different campuses; each school has its own program structure and admission requirements.
Harvard’s ELT program, for instance, is only available for incoming graduate students. (This means Harvard only offers English study to students who are pursuing a master’s or doctorate degree.)
Similarly, the University of Southern California offers an ELT program for graduate students only. However, USC has a separate IEP program for both graduate students and non-graduate students.
Like USC, the University of Illinois at Chicago offers IEP and ELT options within the same English learning program. However, unlike USC or Harvard, Chicago accepts all students into its English programs. There are no gradate-student-only English classes.
There are many other options on many different campuses. To find a university English program that’s right for you, search university websites of schools that interest you, or contact their admissions offices to discuss options available to you.
Language Academies: Another Way to Learn English in America
English language academies are private schools that teach English exclusively. These kinds of schools are a popular alternative to studying English on a university campus. Language academies tend to be located in bigger U.S. cities.
Local and regional English academies in the United States
A few local examples of English schools include the GLI English Academy in Minneapolis, Golden Gate Language Schools in San Francisco, the TIEP English school in Austin, Texas and the Colorado School of English in Denver.
But really, you can find English academies in just about every major American city.
There is no single official directory of American English language schools. However, many different websites can help you research your options. Check out school listings on websites such as EnglishInUSA, ESLBase and the ESL Directory.
You can also just do a web search for “English language academy,” plus the name of the city or state where you want to study. You’ll be contacting newly discovered schools in no time!
National networks of English academies
Not sure where you want to study English just yet? No problem. You don’t necessarily need to search locally.
Often, American English academies are connected to national chains of schools. In that case, you can apply to study through an academy’s national office. Then, you can choose the city where you’d like to learn English.
Again, web searches and web directories can help you find these national English chains. But there are also some important America-wide English school networks you should know about before you search.
Kaplan runs one of the biggest and most well-established networks of English language schools in the US. ELS is another big name in American English language schools. LCI is worth checking out as well, and so is Bridge English.
And actually, a lot of these national chains are part of larger international chains of schools.
Berlitz, for instance, operates English learning centers in the US, but also probably has offices in your home country. So you can contact them locally to ask about learning opportunities in the States. Look for similar international English schools in your own town or region. The staff at these schools can help you find English study locations in the USA.
English academy ELT: Partnerships with American universities
Sometimes, language academies also provide non-university options for ELT study. This is because many English schools in America have partnerships with universities.
Instead of creating its own on-campus ELT program, sometimes a university will have a private English school run their ELT program for them. When students complete the private academy’s ELT program, they are accepted into the partner university.
In fact, many American English schools partner with multiple universities throughout the US. A classic example of this is the California Language Academy (CLA). CLA has an ELT program that can get you placed in universities in the American South, the American Midwest, on the East Coast and the West Coast.
If you’re interested in university placement, check with the language academies when you’re doing research. See if they have a university ELT program or if they offer university placement services.
And remember, even if a language school doesn’t have a partnership with a university, it can still offer you college admissions support through test prep, which can be a course or workshop to help prepare you for standardized English tests that you may need to pass if you want to study at an American university as an international student.
Pretty much every English school in the US can help you prepare for university entrance. American English academies help students with tests such as the TOEFL, the IELTS, the GRE and the GMAT.
Learning non-academic English in American language academies
Both universities and private schools in the USA tend to focus on academic English. Academic language really is the most popular product that American English classrooms offer.
But if you don’t want academic English, there are still options for you. Private English schools in the US offer courses in business English, conversational English speaking, English literacy and English for professional purposes (medicine, engineering, hotel English, etc.).
Whatever your English learning needs may be, you can find an American academy or campus that will meet those needs.
Take Your Time to Research Before Making a Decision
The decision to study English in America is a big one. As you consider studying in the US, weigh your choices carefully. Look at the available schools and compare the structure of different English learning programs.
You should also consider other English-speaking nations. America’s a fine place to learn English, but so is Canada or England, or any number of other English-speaking countries.
After you weigh all your choices, you just might find that learning English in America is right for you. Many learners have chosen to come to the US and have had a truly enriching educational, cultural and professional experience.
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