Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the English as a Second Language (ESL) Department

Q. What do I need to do to get into an ESL class?

  • Fill out an application to become an Ohlone College student.
  • Take the ESL Placement Test.
  • Register for classes online using WebAdvisor. (You will get more information about this when you take the ESL Placement Test).

Q. Do I need to take the ESL Placement Test even though I have taken ESL classes at another college?

Yes. Other colleges have different kinds and levels of ESL courses. As a result, the first or second level of an ESL program at another college may not teach the same things as the first or second level of ESL at Ohlone College. They may be harder or easier than our first or second level, etc. The only way for us to place you into an appropriate class at Ohlone College is for you to take our ESL Placement Test.

Q. What's the difference between the ESL Placement Test and the English Placement Test?

The ESL Placement Test is designed for non-native speakers of English, and it tests their listening, reading, grammar, and writing skills. It includes an essay test, and it is the best test for students whose native language is not English. The English Placement Test, on the other hand, is designed for native speakers of English. It tests a student's reading and sentence structure skills, but it does not require students to write an essay. Therefore, it is not a complete or accurate measure of the language skills of a non-native speaker of English.

Q. Can I skip to a higher level ESL course?

We do not recommend that anyone skip courses. If you skip courses, you will have a weak foundation in English, and this will hurt you for the rest of your educational and/or professional career. If the ESL Placement Test puts you into a certain course, you must start at that course and work up from there, one semester at a time. If a teacher sees that your skills are significantly better than those of the other students in your class, he/she will recommend that you go to a higher class and arrange it for you.

Q. Can I take other classes, besides ESL?

Yes, but we recommend that you concentrate on improving your English first, since that will help you succeed in the other classes. If you take other classes, you need to choose them carefully. If you are in the ESL 181 level, we do not recommend that you take any non-ESL classes except for P.E. (physical education/sports classes). Students whose ESL level is 182 (or above) sometimes enroll and succeed in math or art classes. At the 183 and 184 levels, students sometimes succeed in a variety of other courses, depending on the students’ background. However, in the class schedule, you will see that some classes have “prerequisite” courses and others have “advisory” courses. If you have not taken a course’s prerequisite, you cannot register for it. If a course has an advisory course, it means that the instructors advise or recommend that you complete the advisory course first, but it is not required.

Q. How many classes should I take?

It depends on your schedule (whether you work, have a family, etc.). Each class will require homework, and the amount of homework may be as much as two hours for each hour spent in the classroom. Thus, if you take 12 units of ESL, you are considered a full-time student, and you should spend about 24 hours a week outside of class (in addition to class time) studying and doing homework. If you are serious about improving your English quickly, we encourage you to become a full-time ESL student by taking a combination of core courses (such as ESL 181LS and 181RW) and additional courses (such as ESL 121, 122, etc.).

Q. What do I take after I finish my ESL classes?

It depends on your goals and interests. Generally, if you plan to get a degree or certificate, you will need to continue studying English in the English Department, which is not the same as the ESL Department. If you have completed a 4-unit ESL-184RW course in Spring of 2016 or earlier, you should enroll in English 151A (a writing course) and English 162 (a reading course) or take the English Placement Test. However, if you complete the 5-unit ESL-184RW course in Fall 2016 or later, you will be qualified to take English 151RW or English 151B and 162 afterwards. See the Sequence of Classes.

Q. How can I improve my speaking skills?

  1. Make friends with people who don't speak your language! They can be classmates, neighbors, or anyone. Meet people by joining a club meeting, attending a church group, becoming a volunteer somewhere, etc.
  2. Join an English Conversation Group in the English Learning Center, in Hyman Hall. Go to the main counter on the second floor and ask for a sign-up sheet for a Conversation Group. The group will be led by an Ohlone College student who is fluent in English.
  3. Think in English! Whether you're driving, doing housework, exercising, or whatever, try thinking in English. This will make it easier for you to recall the words you need to speak in English.
  4. Schedule times and places in which you will speak ONLY English.

Q. How can I improve my writing skills?

  1. Do your assigned homework - exercises, paragraphs, and essays - carefully!
  2. Do extra writing - about any topic that is interesting to you.
  3. Pay attention to the structure of the sentences you read. Analyze their grammar.
  4. Use websites such as those in our ESL Websites list.

Q. How can I improve my grammar?

  1. Take our ESL Reading/Writing courses (ESL 181RW, 182RW, 183RW, and 184W). These courses include grammar instruction and grammar textbooks. The ESL Listening/Speaking courses will also include some grammar as it relates to speaking English correctly.
  2. Use ESL websites for grammar practice

Q. What should I do to improve my English most quickly?

  • Use English as much as possible in your daily life.
  • Become a full-time ESL student.
  • Never be afraid to speak English. Don’t worry about making mistakes. You learn by practicing!
  • Ask questions. When someone uses a word or phrase in English that’s not familiar to you, ask a question, and use it as a learning opportunity.
  • Keep a list of new words and phrases that you want to remember. Carry a small notebook for this purpose.
  • Review what you have learned frequently.
  • Use websites to help you improve your English.

Q. What should I read to improve my English?

  1. Books and other materials in the English Learning Center, in Hyman Hall
  2. Websites designed for ESL students
  3. Books from the Children's Collection at the Fremont City Library
  4. Reader's Digest, a monthly magazine
  5. Adapted and simplified novels
  6. Anything that is interesting to you
  7. Anything that is not too difficult for you (so that you will enjoy reading and read more!)

Q. Can I get a tutor to help me with my English?

The English Learning Center hires and trains Ohlone College students who are proficient in English to tutor other students. You can meet with a tutor once a week for no charge. Drop-in tutoring is also available at certain times. Go to the main desk at the English Learning Center in Hyman Hall (second floor) for more details and to sign up.