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Atlanta ESL Programs

A growing number of international students seeking to improve their English language skills and advance their academic careers are coming to Atlanta to enroll in one of the area’s numerous English as a Second Language (ESL) courses.

ESL programs help students who are not native English speakers enhance their skills before they enter college (or when they first enroll at a U.S. university).The scope of ESL programs vary among the schools, with a range of opportunities geared toward the needs and abilities of individual students. Some courses provide a basic introduction to the English language, while others emphasis American flavors of pronunciation, vocabulary and verbalization. Several universities offer courses designed to prepare non-native English speakers for academic pursuits. Other courses prepare students to pass the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam which is required by many colleges and universities.

Atlanta is a particularly attractive destination for international students who want the amenities and opportunities of a major metropolis while maintaining the “small town” charm of a friendly Southern city. Atlanta has all the trappings of a large city -- museums, concerts, sports teams, parks, recreational venues, and corporate headquarters – in a less intimidating setting. The city is also truly a melting pot where a broad range of Asian, European, Middle Eastern and Latino cultures blend with Americans from all parts of the United States.

That diversity has also created a favorable climate for numerous successful ESL programs offered by private educational companies, public universities and private colleges. In addition to providing classroom settings where students enhance their English skills, most schools incorporate field trips and class outings that take full advantage of the vibrant Atlanta cultural diversity.

Private ESL Schools Offer Variety of Programs

There are a number of private institutions that offer ESL classes in the Atlanta area. Some are local entities, while others are branches of national educational companies that provide similar services across the country. They include:

- Atlanta English Institute provides intensive language training, test preparation and private tutors to non-native speakers of all skill levels. The center offers 22,000 square feet of academic study space, a computer lab and library. AEI is located in Dekalb County near the International Village, in the heart of Atlanta’s most ethnically diverse neighborhoods.
- C.C.B. School of Atlanta in Duluth, Gwinnett County, provides 12 levels of intensive English training that use communications and creativity to address each student’s individual needs. Class field trips and school-wide excursions provide opportunities to students to tour the Atlanta area and hone their English skills in real-world settings.
- EF Education First is an international education company that specializes in language training and educational travel. EF Atlanta provides classes at the private Oglethorpe University in the Brookhaven neighborhood of Buckhead. Programs range from basic to intensive, and are complemented by day trips to such Atlanta sites as the Martin Luther King Jr. Center.
- English for Internationals in the Roswell area of Fulton County provides a variety of daytime and evening courses throughout the year, with new programs beginning every two months. Popular offerings include the International Student Visa (4-F) program, Au Pair English and TOEFL iBT Prep classes for those interested in transferring to a college. EFI recently initiated an “open home” program where students visit Atlanta residents to share a meal at local residences.
- ESL Language Centers/Atlanta ESL is a national entity which has provided classes across the United States for the past 50 years. The Atlanta center, located on the campus of Southern Polytechnic State University (SPSU) in Marietta, Cobb County, offers eight courses including English for academic purposes.  ESL Atlanta students also have access to on-campus apartment-style housing and SPSU activities.
- Interactive College of Technology , another nationwide ESL course provider, has three campuses in the metropolitan Atlanta area. The main facility is in the northern Atlanta suburb of Chamblee, Dekalb County, while satellite locations are available in Gainesville (Hall County) north of the city and Morrow (Clayton County) to the south. ICT offers computer and business degrees alongside ESL courses such as conversation, pronunciation and TOEFL preparation.

Public Universities Target Non-Native English Speakers

Many Georgia colleges and universities also offer ESL classes. Some are geared toward students enrolled in a degree program in those institutions. However, many public and private colleges provide several rounds of multi-week classes throughout the year to international students who are preparing for other educational or career opportunities in North America. Leading university-conducted ESL programs include:

- Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), one of the top public universities in the United States, is located in downtown Atlanta. The Georgia Tech Language Institute provides high quality instruction that helps students meet their academic, professional and personal goals. GTLi has a variety of classroom, online and customized courses designed around a student-friendly curriculum.
- Georgia Perimeter College in the Dunwoody suburb of Dekalb County provides instruction in speaking, listening, reading and writing at intermediate through advanced levels. Courses include academic communication and applied grammar.
- Georgia State University is an urban research university in downtown Atlanta. The Department of Applied Linguistics and ESL provides credit courses for bilingual and non-native English speaking undergraduate and graduate students. The curriculum includes English composition for undergraduates; and for graduate students, academic speaking and listening, academic writing, and teaching at the university for international teaching assistants.
- Kennesaw State University in Cobb County northwest of Atlanta offers beginning through advanced ESL classes to provide students for university study across the United States. The Intensive English Program runs eight weeks and is offered throughout the year on a full-time or part-time basis. Courses include vocabulary and idioms, pronunciation, and preparation for all parts of the TOEFL Test.
- Mercer University of Macon, one of America’s oldest private educational institutions, offers ESL classes through its Atlanta campus. Mercer’s English Language Institute helps international students develop the linguistic proficiency needed for personal, professional, and academic success. The intensive two-month courses feature smaller class sizes of 12-15 students and the same benefits as degree-seeking students at Mercer, including an international student advisor, field trips, special events, and both on- and off-campus housing accommodations.

To supplement these on-campus experiences, many institutions work with outside groups to provide additional cultural exposure and language practice. Some groups arrange for students to live with American families who are willing to open their homes to international visitors. For example, Mercer University works with American Homestay Network and Atlanta Homestays . For more than 20 years, Atlanta Homestays has placed students, interns and professionals in homestays with local families. These homestays provide lodging as well as opportunities for students to become fully immersed in American culture while becoming more comfortable exercising their English language skills.

Questions or comments? Please email Michael Fenton at mfenton@atlantapacificgroup.com