Language institute redesigns program

Pat Pearson

The Northern English Language Institute (NELI) has redesigned their program to provide their international students with more competent English language skills as well as a more structured and enjoyable college experience.

Coordinator Jo Doran, Ph.D., said she and the NELI team worked many hours this past summer to come up with a more rigorous approach to educating non-native speakers of English for the overall betterment of the program. “The students didn’t have much supervision (before),” Doran said. “There wasn’t any consistency in the students’ schedules, textbooks, syllabi and attendance policies.”

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Doran said the students this year are under a close eye and are in a streamlined block of classes and tutor sessions. This year, Doran said she has put NELI students on a busier schedule, though she said she does not want the students to seem like their program is just all work.

“We try to make school not just a job for them, but also create a social life for them too,” Doran said.

The NELI department invites NMU students to volunteer in the department and offers a variety of volunteer positions and opportunities. The possible student volunteer positions include: language partners, academic partners, conversation mentors, activity leaders and NELI recruitment.

The student partnership and mentoring programs are designed to assist NELI students with language skills and integrate them into an American collegiate culture.

Language partners are native United States NMU students who spend time with their partners going out for coffee, going shopping, going to the movies, talking, going for walks or any kind of social event or activity. Also, an activity tutor will come in once a week for activity and game time.

Doran said she has seen very positive relationships between the volunteers and students.

“I can tell the students really enjoy our tutors,” Doran said. “Sometimes I have to come over and close the door to the room they are in because they are bothering everybody else nearby with loud noise and laughter.”

Sol Montoya is a student in the program from Monterrey, Mexico. She has been living in Marquette for a year with her husband Julio Canedo and their 7-year-old son.

Montoya said the program gives her plenty of practice with the English language.

“I like how the program is structured,” Montoya said. “I like all of the activities my teachers, tutors and classmates and I do very much. We are required to only speak in English, which is great practice.”

There are three core courses to NELI: reading and writing, listening and speaking and grammar and language application. Students take courses and participate in activities to improve their understanding of the English language used in daily situations and classroom environments.

Tiffany Comfort is a NELI instructor who teaches the listening and speaking as well as the grammar and language applications classes.

Comfort said a very beneficial component to NELI is how personalized she can make her lesson plans to suit the needs of each individual student.

“Its fun to plan your lessons, having the students in mind when you’re planning those lessons, considering how they are going to respond to them, bringing in material that is not only going to be exciting and interesting for them, but also helpful for their language improvement,” Comfort said.

One way that Comfort said she has engaged students is by being upbeat and encouraging and also by using active learning techniques.

“I focus on utilizing group work and competitive activities, in addition to challenging individual tasks to best identify each student’s strengths and weaknesses to work on,” Comfort said.

NELI students have come from countries all around the world such as Slovakia, Mexico, China, Saudi Arabia, Kongo and Korea.

Students interested in volunteer work are encouraged to visit Dr. Jo Doran in 163 Whitman Hall.