Students who speak English as a subsequent language may encounter challenges not anticipated by their native English-speaking counterparts.  It is important to recognize that the journey is unique for everyone and there are many ways to be an ESL student.  International students may be easily recognizable as ESL; however, it is possible that you grew up in Canada or attended high school here and speak English as a subsequent language.  Perhaps you attended a French Immersion school, speak an Aboriginal Language, or immigrated to Canada after early childhood.  Maybe you are a Canadian citizen, but grew up overseas speaking the language native to the country you lived in.  Regardless of your journey, ESL students face a variety of challenges.

ESL Workshops

If you are experiencing challenges relating to language, be sure to speak with your professor to explain the difficulties you are having. The University of Saskatchewan Language Centre offers part-time (evening) ESL courses. These courses are open to both international and domestic ESL students.  Interested students may be:

  • International students who have already completed their full-time program and want to improve academic English skills.
  • International students who provided evidence of English language proficiency, yet want to brush up on academic English skills
  • Domestic ESL students who attended an English speaking high school, yet want to improve academic English

International Student and Study Abroad Centre (ISSAC)

ISSAC can be an important support during your time at the U of S, because ISSAC is dedicated to fostering a welcoming, globally aware and engaged community at the U of S for ALL students, staff and faculty.

Beyond the many programs and services for all students at the U of S, ISSAC offers a Global Connections Student Lounge and Training room that is open to both domestic and international students. Spending time there is a great way to meet a variety of people and practice your English skills.

Tips from Other ESL Students

  • When choosing classes, know your strengths.  Some classes require more reading and memorizing than others.  Plan your schedule accordingly.  Consider summer classes; although they have a fairly heavy workload, they are shorter and more focused.
  • Make sure you know the deadlines for paying tuition and dropping classes. If you drop a class after the deadline for changes, you will receive a Withdrawal (W) on your transcript.
  • If you live outside of Saskatoon and plan to travel home during holidays, do NOT book travel until after you have received your final exam schedule.  Final exams are scheduled after the last day of classes until around December 23rd (for term 1). Check the Academic Calendar for important dates.
  • Some professors can speak very quickly and it’s easy to miss what is said.  If you can’t understand your professor, speak with them after class or during office hours to make them aware.  If you wish to record a lecture, you must ask for permission.
  • Sometimes culturally or language specific events, TV shows, music, and stories are referred to in class.  If you don’t understand the reference you can make a note to ask about it later or ask right away or ask a classmate to spell the name for you. You may already be familiar with the story or event, but not recognize the pronunciation.
  • It is important to speak up in class.  Many classes expect student participation and in some cases, part of your grade is based on participation.  Professors generally outline their expectations during the first class and on the syllabus.
  • If you aren’t sure how to address a professor, be formal the first time.  If professors or instructors prefer a less formal address, they will tell you.  Often this is covered during the first class. 
  • If you encounter a difficulty with the class or outside of class (such as an accident, sickness) that impacts your ability to attend class, speak with your professor in person or by email. Depending on circumstances, professors may suggest you speak with the department, Disability Services for Students, or others. 
  • Make a friend in each class.  That way if either of you miss a class, you can share notes from the missed class.  You will also have someone to study with.
  • Study with a friend or small group from your class.  You can book a study room through the library. Study rooms generally have a white board and you can connect your computer up to the large monitor provided. Don’t worry if you don’t have white board markers or the monitor connector (RGB or VGA cable) – you can borrow these from the circulation desk.
  • Check out OWL Purdue for tips on common norms and writing in North American Colleges and Universities. 
  • It is extremely important to cite your sources.  Ask your professor what citation style is used in your class.  If you have citation or research questions, ask the librarian at the reference help desk in the library. U of S librarians are very helpful. Also visit the Writing Help Centre and attend workshops on academic writing.
  • Follow general academic success advice: Attend class regularly, familiarize yourself with the textbook, stay ahead of your readings, read lecture notes/PowerPoints before class if they are available, start assignments early, and get enough sleep.
  • Have FUN!  Attend campus and community events – the sooner you get involved and practice your English skills, the faster your English will improve. 
  • Explore Saskatchewan and Canada. Consider joining the Language Centre’s Activity Group for special trips.