Center for Global Communication+Design

Language and Culture Support

We recognize that non-native English-speaking students have varied needs when improving communication skills and adjusting to English. We are proud to offer both tutoring and language and culture support to address these needs!

We highly encourage non-native English-speaking students to use our scheduler to make appointments with TAs or mentors for help with individual projects, including personal work, class assignments, application essays for graduate school, and cover letters for job applications. Our mentors and teaching assistants are trained to work with multilingual students and explain typical difficulties with English writing and speaking. We are not language teachers, but are happy to help with oral presentations, grammar, vocabulary, native English idioms, and so on. In addition, all students also have access to the Comm+D’s online resources, also accessible through the Resources section of this website.

Comm+D offers a number of opportunities and resources for adapting to American language and culture, including:

  • Tips on Language and Culture: This series of downloadable handouts covers many topics. Some are specifically for language learners (campus resources, how to describe charts and graphs, others); some are for people wanting to welcome the world (how to say Chinese names, tips on intercultural communication); and some are useful for anyone adjusting to Rensselaer (an alphabetical list of 160+ abbreviations and academic terms). A list of all Comm+D handouts is available via Box.
     
  • Language Proficiency Testing for International Student TAs: Assessment of international graduate teaching assistants’ speaking skills identifies new TAs who need to improve their oral language skills, so they can communicate more effectively with the students they will be teaching. International graduate students who are offered a teaching assistantship have an initial language assessment during summer orientation, which determines whether or not they should take the course Effective Communication for Class Pedagogy.
     
  • COMM 1960 Effective Communication for Class Pedagogy: This zero-credit course is designed to help international teaching assistants develop their skills for communicating with students and colleagues in an academic setting. Teaching assistants have priority; other students may join as space allows.
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Language Assessment of International TAs

Teaching involves stronger communication challenges, and a higher level of language skill, than just being a student. New international teaching assistants (ITAs) whose first language is not English must have good speaking skills in order to be an effective TA for the students they will be teaching. Comm+D provides support to help them do so.

International graduate students who are offered a teaching assistantship and score below 26 on the speaking section of the TOEFL exam must take the language assessment test to evaluate his/her oral proficiency speaking. This language assessment results in one of two possible outcomes: sufficient skills, with no further testing needed; skills that need development through the course Effective Communication for Class Pedagogy before the TA can work with a group of students.

Note that studying as an undergraduate or graduate student at an American college, and experience as a teaching assistant at another college or university, is not sufficient for being exempted from testing. We want to be sure that TAs meet our expectations for effective communication.

Test of Spoken English

Teaching involves stronger communications challenges, and a higher level of language skill, than just being a student.  New international teaching assistants (ITAs) whose first language is not English must have their speaking skills assesses to be sure that the skill is sufficient to promote success for themselves and the students with whom they will work.

Any international TA who has taken the TOEFL exam and scored 26 or higher on the speaking section is considered to have sufficient language skill and is exempt from testing. Any other new international TA must take the language assessment test to evaluate his/her oral proficiency. 

Note that studying as an undergraduate or graduate student at an American college, and even experience as a teaching assistant at another college or university, is not sufficient for being exempted from testing.  The Comm+D staff wants to be sure that their TAs meet the Center's expectations for communication ability.

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Opportunities and Resources for Adapting to American Language and Culture

Tips on Language and Culture

This series of downloadable handouts covers many topics. Some are specifically for language learners (campus resources, how to describe charts and graphs, others); some are for people wanting to welcome the world (how to say Chinese names, tips on intercultural communication); and some are useful for anyone adjusting to Rensselaer (an alphabetical list of 160+ abbreviations and academic terms). Comm+D has assembled a full list of downloadable handouts for students' reference and use.

Language proficiency testing for international student TAs

Assessment of international graduate teaching assistants’ speaking skills identifies new TAs who need to improve their oral communication skills to be effective both for themselves and the students they will be teaching. International graduate students who are offered a teaching assistantship have an initial language assessment during summer orientation, which determines whether or not their skills need development through coursework (ADMN1010). [More details below.]

ADMN1010 “Oral Communication for International TAs”

This zero-credit course is designed to help international teaching assistants develop their skills for communicating with students and colleagues in an academic setting. Teaching assistants have priority; others may join as space allows.

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Chinese Mentor Program

“The Chinese mentor program is one of the most outstanding and friendly programs, not only for mentors, but also for anyone who is willing to learn Chinese.”

Students learning Chinese have an opportunity to develop their language competency and expand their understanding of Chinese culture by working work with mentors who are native Chinese speakers. The mentors, who are trained and supervised by Professor Jianling Yue, have the teaching and communication skills to work effectively with students. In addition, the Chinese Mentor Program enhances intercultural communication on our campus because it is open to all members of the Rensselaer community, and anyone who is interested in learning and developing competency in Chinese language and culture is welcome to participate.

To sign up for a meeting with a Chinese mentor, please contact Haowen He. Each week, you will receive email containing a link to the schedule where you can sign up for a meeting with a Chinese mentor.