Engaging English: A Targeted Way to Learn English

As school lets out for the summer, many high school graduates find themselves looking forward not only to their summer vacation, but also to entering a college or university in the fall.  However, as Dan Levin of the NY Times points out, for some upcoming freshman, their acceptance is the result of hours of preparation in addition to a significant financial investment.  This is especially true for international students.

With China sending more students to American colleges than any other country, the competition for spots at the top schools has soared… [And] as a record number of students from outside the United States compete for a limited number of spots at the most selective American colleges, companies…are seeking to profit from their ambitions.

Parents in China enroll their children in programs that offer a money-back guarantee of university acceptance (the money back amounting to upwards of$15,000).  These companies work with students starting as early as their freshman year of high school and “design extracurricular activities for the students; guide them in essay writing; tutor them for the SAT…and train them for the Test of English as a Foreign Language [TOEFL exam]….Often [students] have poor English language skills and have done little with their free time beyond homework.  Yet their parents often demand the Ivy League.”

 As students work with these companies to improve their college applications they often also turn to a variety of web-based products in an effort to improve their English language skills. Our own  EngagingEnglish.com is an example of a supplemental resource for students seeking to improve their English reading skill.  This online service provides targeted reading by matching readers to appropriately difficult texts, based on the Lexile Framework for Reading  and their selected interests.  Engaging English also provides immediate feedback and tracks users’ progress – motivating continued achievement.   Look for the new version available in early July with enhanced features and improvements.

Engaging English: Preparing for the Future

For the past 46 years the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) has been used to evaluate “the ability of nonnative English speakers to use and understand the English language as it is heard, spoken, read and written in the university classroom.”  This test is now the standard used by more than 7,500 colleges, universities and agencies in 130 countries.  Many students intending to study in the United States are required to complete this test in order to confirm their ability to function within an English-speaking environment. 

And it’s not just universities.  Some companies are taking the English proficiency requirement a step further.  The Wall Street Journal recently reported (subscription required for full access) that Rakuten, the Japanese rival to Amazon.com, has developed a plan requiring all business to be conducted in English by 2012.  This requirement goes far beyond an expectation of minimal proficiency.  Rakuten’s CEO, Hiroshi Mikitani, is requiring that all employees speak and correspond only in English.     Although the decision is not without controversy, many other Japanese based companies including Sony, Nissan Motor Fast Retailing Co., Mitsubishi Corp., and Nipon Sheet Glass Co. have already implemented similar policies.  (more…)

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