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Support for students with English as an additional language (EAL)

SASS offers a number of programs and resources to help multilingual students be successful at university. Both undergraduate and graduate students can improve communication and build confidence by working on academic English reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills.

Not sure where to start? Visit our frequently asked questions tab.

We support...EAL appointmentsWrite NightsAcademic Connections CertificateSpeak UpInternational VoicesAsynchronous supportFrequently asked questions

We support students’…

Writing

  • General skill development: learn strategies for academic writing and self-editing
  • Grammar: learn, review, and practice grammar topics
  • Cultural conventions: learn about the expectations of a North American / English audience
  • Academic vocabulary: develop an academic word bank
  • English Proficiency Test (EPT) preparations: practice for Engineering and Applied Science Students

Speaking

  • Presentation practice: get feedback on a presentation for a course or conference
  • Pronunciation: review and practice the sounds of English
  • Academic discussions: learn and practice strategies for contributing to class discussions
  • Vocabulary: build a spoken academic vocabulary with appropriate idioms and expressions

Listening

  • Lectures: learn and practice strategies for understanding lectures and conferences
  • Comprehension: develop skills to understand spoken English and pull out key ideas
  • Active listening: find ways to engage with what your peers and professors are saying

Reading

  • Comprehension: develop strategies to break down complex academic readings and identify key concepts
  • Vocabulary: learn about resources for understanding academic language
  • Integrating Research: explore how to effectively integrate ideas from readings into your writing for a North American / English audience

EAL appointments

What is EAL support?

Students who speak English as an additional language can meet with the Academic Skills Specialist (EAL) for ongoing skills development. The purpose of this service is to support students in developing their academic English skills over time. Students may be interested in additionally booking writing or learning strategies appointments. The EAL program helps students develop similar skills as these other two programs, but through the specific lens of English skills development.

These appointments are private and confidential. Appointments are free, and they are available to all current domestic and international students who do not speak English as their first language.

“[The EAL Coordinator] explains things really clearly and made me feel more confident about my English skills. SASS and EAL made my graduate studies easier and less stressful. I wish every university had that program.”

What are EAL appointments like?

The first meeting focuses on discussing your goals for improving your academic English and creating a plan to achieve those goals. You and the coordinator will decide together how many times you should meet and what you will do at each session.

Each appointment is different, to suit each student’s needs, but some typical sessions include:

  • Grammar lessons: Students bring in a piece of their writing. The coordinator helps to identify trends of grammatical errors and explains self-editing strategies to fix them. (Note—this is not an editing service.)
  • Academic writing development: Students bring in writing and the coordinator helps identify places where meaning is unclear. By discussing word choice, transitions, and sentence structure, students develop their ability to produce writing that effectively communicates critical ideas.
  • Pronunciation: Either by going through the sounds of English, one by one, or through speaking exercises, students receive feedback on their English pronunciation.
  • Academic reading in English: Students bring in an academic reading and learn, then practice, strategies to support their comprehension of both vocabulary and key ideas.

How do I book an EAL appointment?

If you are interested in booking a EAL appointment, please request an introductory appointment. Once you fill out this form, you will receive an email with further instructions on how to access our online booking tool.

You need to fill out this form only once.

Write Nights

Write Nights promo imageWrite Nights are weekly interactive writing workshops where you are empowered to make choices as a writer. A different writing topic is discussed each week. Click here for a PDF of the Write Nights poster for Fall 2021.

When? Tuesday evenings, 5:30-7:30 pm or Thursday mornings, 9:00-11:00 am

Where? Register for Tuesdays or Thursdays (*Both options online.)

What? Write Nights focuses on a different topic every week and includes opportunities for practice.

  • September: Academic phrases, Articles, Writing structure
  • October: Transitions, Prepositions, Source integration
  • November: Pronouns, Avoiding idioms, Wrap up

Academic Connections Certificate

ACC promo imageThe Academic Connections Certificate (ACC) allows you to uncover the academic expectations at Queen’s University through programs and services about academic success and overcoming academic culture shock. Participation in the ACC is flexible; complete the certificate in a few weeks or over the academic year, and engage online or in person! Register online and you will be invited to join the onQ course. A PDF of the ACC brochure is available here.

Core certificate requirements

Attend all four sessions of Overcoming Academic Culture Shock: Strategies for Success at Queen’s University (or complete modules on onQ)

  • Session 1: Academic learning
  • Session 2: Academic communication
  • Session 3: Academic integrity
  • Session 4: Academic writing

Additional requirements

  • Attend any two sessions of Write Nights. Write Nights are weekly interactive writing workshops where you are empowered to make choices as a writer. A different writing topic is discussed each week, and topics include academic phrases, articles, writing structure, transitions, prepositions, source integration, pronouns, and avoiding idioms.
  • Attend any one Wellness Session and document participation. Choose a session related to wellness offered by the Queen’s International Centre, Student Wellness Services, and/or the Student Experience Office. See the list of possibilities and document participation in onQ.
  • Sign up for any service or program from 1:1 Connections. Try out a one-to-one service or program offered within the Division of Student Affairs. See the list of possibilities, follow directions to sign up, and document participation in onQ.

Speak Up: Academic Speaking Skills Lab

speak up graphicWhat is it? Want to increase your confidence speaking in an academic setting? Join us for Speak Up, an academic speaking skills lab where you can practice speaking strategies for interacting in the university classroom, and with peers and professors.

Who can use it? Any Queen’s student is welcome to join Speak Up, but it has been designed for international and students with English as an additional language who want to practice their academic speaking skills in a supportive space.

How does it work? The speaking lab alternates each week between meeting in person and on Zoom on Tuesday mornings, 11am-12pm. Register on the SASS events calendar.

International Voices @ Queen’s Podcast

What is it? IV@Q is a supportive listening space for members of the Queen’s University community, developed in partnership between SASS and the QUIC. Episodes include topics about culture shock, developing your authorial voice, and navigating housing in Canada.

Who is the host? The host of the first season of IV@Q is AmirHossein Sojoodi, a PhD student in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE). You can find more information about him at https://amirsojoodi.github.io/

Who can use it? We welcome listeners from our local Queen’s community and around the world.

How does it work? Episodes can be streamed from the CFRC website or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Asynchronous writing support

SASS is currently piloting an asynchronous EAL support program. Priority for participation will be given to students studying outside of Kingston and Canada.

  • What is it? A chance to receive feedback on your written work by email. Feedback is given on the use of academic English where style, grammar, syntax, vocabulary, and conventions are concerned. This is a skill-development program, not an editing service.
  • Who can use it? Students who are looking for support with academic English but find it challenging to book a synchronous EAL appointment.
  • How does it work? If you think you’re eligible to participate, email eal.sass@queensu.ca for more information.

Frequently asked questions

Does SASS offer ESL support?

Yes, it does! At SASS, we have switched to using the term, English as an Additional Language, or EAL, instead of ESL. The reason for this is to acknowledge that some students speak more than two languages. If you’re looking for ESL support, visit our EAL page.

What does English as an Additional Language or EAL mean?

When we refer to students with English as an additional language, we mean students who learned to speak English after their first language or who are multilingual.

What does Academic English mean?

Just as there is British English, Ghanaian English, and Indian English, you can think of Academic English as a particular variety of the English language that is intended for a specific audience. Academic English refers to the specific vocabulary, style, and conventions that we consider most appropriate and effective when communicating with an academic audience. We use Academic English in scholarly articles for publication in journals, writing assignments for university courses, presentations for academic conferences, etc.

What academic skills can the EAL program help me with?

The EAL program can help you with reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills as they relate to your academics. For more information about what each of these sessions can cover, refer to our language skills descriptions.

How are EAL appointments different from writing and learning strategies appointments?

SASS has three appointment programs, each offering a different but related service to students. In writing appointments, students can learn general writing skills and get feedback on a particular academic writing assignment, such as an essay or a lab report. Learning strategies appointments are for all of the academic skills students need to be successful outside of writing—time management, note-taking, presentations, etc. The EAL program is an intersection of both writing and learning, but specifically through the lens of academic English.

For example, a student may have a learning strategies appointment to work on reading strategies, and then have an EAL appointment to work on understanding English vocabulary in readings.

Another example could be a student who has a writing appointment to get feedback on an essay for History 122, and then has biweekly EAL appointments to work on sentence structure and verb tenses in academic writing in general.

Can I get someone to edit my paper?

No, there are no editing services offered by Queen’s University. At SASS, our mission is to help you develop the academic skills you need to edit and improve your own work. We can, however, help you identify types of grammatical errors and describe strategies for fixing them. If you would like feedback on a particular writing assignment or advice on general writing skills, book a writing appointment; if you would like to work on your academic English writing, book an EAL appointment.

Do EAL appointments count towards my limit of 6 writing appointments?

No, EAL appointments are separate from writing appointments. Students will decide with the EAL Coordinator how many EAL appointments they will have during the initial consultation. This number depends on each individual student’s needs and the plan that will best support the student in developing their goals.

Does SASS help students in all faculties and departments?

Yes, SASS can help students in all faculties and at all levels of degree. Every program at Queen’s requires strong academic communication skills; the EAL program can help students develop their skills, regardless of their research focus or concentration.

I am an international student. Where can I go for advice on how to be successful at university?

International and exchange students can start by reviewing our resource about the Canadian academic environment.

International and exchange students looking for advice about transition to Canadian culture, immigration, health insurance, housing, or other essential services while studying in Canada can access an International Student Advisor at the Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC).

Students looking for advice related to cultural adaptation, adjusting to a new cultural / academic environment, negotiating relationships with peers or professors, or other wellness-related topics can get confidential support from the cross-cultural counsellor.

Students looking for advice about choosing courses or degree requirements can contact their relevant academic advisor from their faculty. Find a range of academic counselling options here.

What can I do if…

I want to practice on my own?

Students can explore our online modules on a variety of writing and learning topics, or visit these external websites for additional English practice.

I am looking for someone to help me practice speaking?

For practice in conversational English, you can attend the Conversation Group every Thursday evening at the QUIC. Additionally, you might be interested in the mentoring programs offered by the Student Experience Office to learn about getting the most out of your student experience. Join the Peer Mentor Program or Q Success, if you are a first-year student.

If you are looking for more intensive support, you can book a pronunciation session with the EAL Specialist. For independent practice, SASS has adaptive reading software available for students to use. Book time with the software by contacting the EAL specialist.

I am fairly confident in my English speaking/ writing but want to keep improving?

SASS helps all students—struggling and high-achieving, 1st-year to PhD—improve their writing, learning, organization, and studying skills. The same is true for students at all levels of English proficiency. Our services are not remedial; rather, we are focused on supporting all students in continuing to develop their skills.

I will be away from campus but still want to work on my English?

Registered Queen’s students are able to book online appointments for EAL support. Online appointments happen using an integrated tool in our booking system, WC Online. If you already have access to the Academic English Skills Support schedule, simply choose the “meet online” option when booking an appointment. To get access to this schedule, please fill out this request form.

Students can also practice with our online resources and exercises on external websites.

I’m an Engineering student and have to pass the EPT. Can you help me prepare?

Yes! You can have an EAL appointment to work on strategies for effective writing or practice EPT-style exercises.

I am a graduate student?

SASS supports graduate students in their academic skills development. Graduate students can book appointments for writing, learning, and academic English. Although our professional staff may not necessarily be experts on your subject matter, they will be able to provide you with strategies that will improve your writing and develop your academic skills.

In addition to appointments, graduate students can attend weekly programming, like the Grad Writing Lab, and participate in Expanding Horizons workshops. They should also visit our graduate student page for additional resources.

I don’t know where to start?

If you are a student who speaks English as an additional language (EAL), start by booking an EAL consultation. You will have the opportunity to meet with the coordinator to create a plan that will best support you in achieving your academic goals.