English as a second language courses a key to success for many UI international students

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By Jenna Hammerich for Iowa Now

Jin-A Park can order a complicated coffee with perfect English grammar, ask an American classmate to lunch with ease, and keep up with her linguistics professors’ mile-a-minute lectures on morphoxyntax and phonological theory—but, that certainly wasn’t always the case for the South Korean native.

When she first came to the U.S. to attend high school, she had limited English and avoided any social situation that required speaking.

“I didn’t know any English, any American culture,” she says (though, to be fair, she did have some English, having studied the language since grade school). “All my high school classes were in English, but I still needed classes on how to speak English.”

When she entered the University of Iowa in 2011, she expected to be thrown directly into a degree program, where, as in high school, she’d have to sink or swim. But instead, she encountered a network of teachers and administrators committed to supporting students who speak English as a second language.

Maureen Burke directs the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ English as a Second Language (ESL) Programs, which provide ESL support for the UI’s approximately 3,000 international students for whom English is a foreign language.

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