English is not my first language. How can I improve my writing?
There are some excellent resources at U of T for learning English, including both formal instruction and opportunities to practise listening:
- The Faculty of Arts and Science offers a program to provide English Language Learning support to multilingual undergraduates in Arts and Science. The course Intensive Academic English (ELL010H) focusses on enhancing the high-level reading, writing, speaking and listening skills needed for courses at U of T. This course is offered in early May and late August. Check the ELL website for details. A moderate tuition fee is refundable upon completion of the course. The program also hosts Communication Café meetings four times a week starting in fall term. Students take part in games and activities designed to enhance the critical thinking and speaking skills needed in courses. The Café is open to all FAS undergraduates. Any time during the year, FAS students may participate in Reading eWriting, an effective method for expanding academic vocabulary and improving reading and writing skills while you are taking courses.
- The School of Continuing Studies's English Language Program offers non-credit certificate courses on academic skills to prepare international students for university work. A number concentrate on writing, others concentrate on speaking. The courses are offered full-time or part-time, sometimes as distance education. A new course on pronunciation is intended for postdoctoral fellows. Check the website to find out about fees, times, and topics.
- U of T at Scarborough offers a comprehensive system of instruction and support, led by specialized ESL instructors. It offers undergraduate credit courses in English as a Second Language that involve analysis and practice in the academic uses of language. Visit the website for more information and to get the application form for enrolment. Continuing support for students new to academic language and culture is also offered through the English Language Development program. See the website for news of interesting group meetings and helpful individual consultation assisting the development of academic vocabulary and reading strategies. Non-UTSC students can also benefit from the useful advice and links to online resources included in the ELD website.
- Graduate students can take advantage of a wide range of specialized non-credit courses and workshops offered by the Office of English Language and Writing Support in the School of Graduate Studies. They deal with discussion and presentation skills as well as with writing in specific disciplines. Check the website to see current programming. Be sure to choose your courses wisely and to enrol early—spaces are limited.
- U of T writing centres throughout the university give free group sessions and non-credit courses about writing and other academic skills. Check the News page for information about current activities. Look out for the Writing Plus series of group sessions offered in fall and spring terms by the downtown college centres. Writing centres also offer individual consultations with professional writing instructors knowledgeable about U of T expectations and about the challenges of using academic English. Make an appointment at your writing centre to get interactive feedback on your drafts and the chance to talk intensively about your ideas.
- See the U of T files of specific advice for writers of English as a second language, which also set out a selection of links to other online resources.
- U of T libraries and bookstores stock specialized books for reference, review, and instruction.
- Speaking, reading, and writing are closely related! Read the report by Carolyn Samuel about manuals and tapes for pronunciation practice. Most are available in U of T libraries and/or bookstores. Note also the useful new Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, for sale for about $30 in the Bookstore. Its CD-ROM (included) not only works as an onscreen popup to define words you're reading in online material, but also includes pronunciation sound-bites giving both British and American pronunciations for each word.
- The Centre for International Experience offers low-cost conversation classes in its English Communication Program from September to April. Transition advising is also available by appointment. All students registered at U of T are eligible.
- There are many other chances on campus for informal practice in English. Combine learning with recreation in athletics, student groups and clubs, and social events at the Centre for International Experience. Take advantage of the whole university to hear, read, and speak the language!
- And enjoy reading these humorous and practical tips on surviving as an international student and TA. They were put together by Etsuko Kato, a PhD student in Anthropology, for a panel discussion on Academic Survival Skills.