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Learning a new language is never an easy nor simple task. Learning English as a second language is certainly no exception. The English language contains so many intricacies and nuances, which make it a language especially difficult to master at an academic level.


What makes this language so difficult? Many words and sounds that are spelled the same way have different pronunciations. Many words have variable meanings depending on the structure of the sentence and the words that come before or after it. Gaining proficiency in this language takes experience and practice.  Even Native English language speakers have trouble learning to master the spelling of words. Some sounds may have the same spelling, but are pronounced in a completely differently way. Another reason English is difficult to learn is due to the complicated structure of its grammar. The language has an abundance of phrasal verbs, idioms and grammatical patterns. Mastering all of these complex patterns to become fluent in the language takes time.  But how much time should it take a student to become academically proficient in the English language?


Hakuto, Butler and Witt studied this exact question. How long does it take to attain English proficiency? Academic proficiency is defined, in this study, as the ability to use the language in an academic environment. Proficiency in academic contexts is essential for success in High School, University and beyond.  The researchers took data from over 1,000 students learning English as a second language in Ontario, as well as over 1,000 students in San Francisco. Their findings showed that oral proficiency in English will take anywhere from 3 to 5 years to develop, depending on factors such as the origin of the students native language as well as their natural ability in learning new language skills. The development of academic English proficiency however, can take anywhere from 4 to 7 years to appropriately develop.  Four to 7 years to develop proficiency may seem like a long time, however it is important to think about the challenge that the students who are learning English as a second language are facing. Not only do they have to acquire their speaking, writing and academic English language skills, but they also have to keep up with the Native English language speakers in their classes who are continuing to develop their language skills at the same time. Rushing this process will only be a detriment to these students in their academic future.  Upper York School has developed a fantastic solution with their excellent English as a Second Language program.

Upper York School is knowledgeable as to the challenges facing ESL students and therefore offer ESL classes all year long so that students can continue to practice and develop their English language skills. The small class sizes are an added benefit to this with a great amount of support for students, allowing them to practice both oral language skills as well as their academic English language proficiency. Upper York School uses the Off2Class system for their ESL program, which allows their teachers to provide high quality ESL content in a digital environment.  In order to maximize the learning environment, they combined this system with the World English program for beginner levels and the Keynote Series for the intermediate and more advanced ESL learners.


Upper York School has the solution for ESL learners in attaining fluency. They have the appropriate resources available for these students and have a proven structure and program that leads to 100% of their graduates accepted in to University and on the right path for a bright and successful future with their well-rounded and developed academic English language skills.


Hakuta, K., Butler, Y.G., Witt, D. (2000) How Long Does it Take English Learners to Attain Proficiency? The University of California Linguistic Minority Research Institute Policy Report (200-1)Click to learn more about our summer programs in  July and August.  Register now!

Summer ESL Programs at Upper York School


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