Academic English Programs vs General ESL

Academic English Programs vs General ESL


This is a guest post from Daniel Shaw, Fleming College Toronto ELB Program Coordinator and experienced language educator.  

When choosing to study English in Canada, you might be wondering, what is Academic English? How is it different from English as a Second Language (ESL)? While academic English programs and General ESL programs both aim to help non-native English speakers improve their language skills, they approach this in different ways. 

Let’s discuss the advantages of Academic English programs, like the FCT English Language Bridge (ELB) program, compared to general ESL programs on offer in Canada.  

The First Advantage

The first main advantage of Academic English programs is that they are designed specifically for students who plan to complete an undergraduate or master’s degree at an English-speaking university or college.  

These programs, such as our ELB program, focus on specific language skills and academic knowledge that are needed to succeed in your studies or future career. 

For example, students in an academic English program such as ELB will learn how to write academic research papers, give formal presentations, participate in class discussions, and study academic language in context. Furthermore, they will also learn about academic vocabulary and grammar that is specific to their field of study. 

Prepare for the Future 

One of the biggest advantages of academic English programs is that they prepare students for the future. By focusing on the language skills and knowledge needed for success in an academic setting, students can enter university or a new career with the confidence and skills necessary to succeed.  

Furthermore, students who graduate from academic English programs, like the ELB program, have a much easier time transitioning to their future studies, as they are already familiar with the academic culture and expectations of the college or university. 

The ESL Advantage 

So, what about general ESL programs? These usually focus on improving students' overall English language skills. Many of these programs do not focus on any specific academic or professional area. They only aim to improve students’ general English proficiency. While general ESL programs can be beneficial for students who are new to Canada, and want to improve their overall language skills, they do not provide the same level of preparation for university studies or the professional workplace as academic English programs do.  

Smaller Class Sizes 

Another advantage of academic English programs is that they generally offer smaller class sizes and more individualized support and guidance. As academic English programs are specifically designed for students who plan to study at an English-speaking university or college, instructors are usually more qualified and experienced in teaching English specifically for academic purposes.  

They are also able to provide a better level of instruction and feedback to students, which can be beneficial to students who need extra help in certain areas of their studies. 

In conclusion, academic English programs offer several advantages over general ESL programs for students who plan to study at a Canadian university or college. By focusing on specific language skills and knowledge needed to succeed in an academic or professional setting, academic English programs prepare students for the future, and provide them with the confidence and skills needed for success.  

Click here to find out more about Fleming College Toronto’s English Language Bridge program. 

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