A Case Study of the English Language Center

5641 Words23 Pages
A Case Study of the English Language Center

Three blocks away from the hustle of Market Street, the main thoroughfare of Drexel University's campus, an unassuming building nestles in a quiet neighborhood. The street, lined with narrow sidewalks and trees, gives one a feeling of coziness and safety. Other than the faint sounds of city traffic, tranquility presides over this neighborhood scene. At 229 North 33rd Street stands a long, rectangular, light-colored brick building two stories high. The low green shrubs at the edge of the building and the grassy areas spotted with trees to either side of the entrance give one the sense that this building belongs to the "neighborhood." Looking up at its facade, one would not think that inside this modest structure lies a microscopic view of the world as it could be in the next millennium-a world where countries from all corners of the globe come together in harmony, a non-politicized world where borders, political divisions separating ethnic groups, dissolve and give rise toboundaries, permeable areas that encourage the acknowledgement of and mutual respect for linguistic and cultural diversity.

What is this place? Who are the inhabitants? Walking up the entranceway steps lined with black iron railings, one immediately encounters an outer glass door inscribed with the outline of an umbrella-shaped image encasing the letters AAIEP. Above the umbrella stand the words "American Association for International English Programs (AAIEP)" and underneath, "English Language Center, Foreign Language Center, and ESL Writing Center." These words only begin to frame what goes on inside this building. On the other side of the entranceway lies a safe haven--a place where people from around the globe to come together to learn English, a place where words are transformed into language.

But more goes on at 229 North 33rd Street than just the learning of English in the traditional sense of learning a language or the teaching of specific skills: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. At Drexel's English Language Center (ELC), students learn about American culture as well. While knowledge of vocabulary, syntax, and grammar serve to enhance one's linguistic ability, they do not necessarily promote communicative competence or the appropriate use of language in situations of everyday life. Because the rules and norms of language cannot be separated from culture, developing communicative competence "enables a student to use a language for a wide range of social and expressive purposes" (Schiffrin 323).
Open Document