Study English as a foreigner in USA?
February 7, 2010 7:22 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend is thinking about moving to America. She's not a native English speaker; what programs in NYC are available? Which ones are reputable?

My (East Asian) girlfriend is nervous about making a big move to America. She specifically wants to move to New York City. I (an American citizen) am with her now in East Asia. I'd be more than willing to move with her and try to provide her with whatever emotional and material support I can muster.

That having been said, she'd love to study English. Does anyone here have any comment on what programs in NYC are available and reputable?

I've found that NYU and CUNY have programs but that doesn't tell me if they're any good.

We'd both like to believe that if she studies English and gets close to fluency that she can work in America. If anyone has any comment on that pipe dream, too, I'd love to hear it. Burst my bubble if you want to. I can take it. (Maybe)

I should add that no one's getting married anytime soon in this relationship.
posted by thesecagesarenotgoodenough to Education (11 answers total)
Are you ignoring the very fundamental issue of U.S. immigration and visa law, or is that part of the story you've forgotten to add to this post? Clearly, speaking English (or not) has no bearing on whether one is permitted to be present and employed in the States.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:29 AM on February 7, 2010

Unless you are planning to marry her, or she falls under some special visa requirement it will be impossible for her to work legitimately in the US.

Frankly, you are going about this backwards, I think. First, you and your girlfriend should consult with a US immigration lawyer who can advise you and your girlfriend about the different paths she can take to finding legitimate work in the US.

Once youunderstand your options, then she can figure out what English classes she can take.

NYU's classes likely are more expensive than CUNY's. Both are likely to be reliable. You may wantto get in touch with both of these programs and ask if hey know of others in the city. I am sure there are lots of them.
posted by dfriedman at 7:33 AM on February 7, 2010

I guess I see that as a related but slightly different question altogether.

If she studied English full-time, she would qualify for a student visa.
posted by thesecagesarenotgoodenough at 7:33 AM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are non-citizens who are granted visas to study in the US able to work? I doubt it. And unless i'm misunderstanding the nature of learning a foreign language I don't see how one taking English language lessons could conceivably qualify as a full time student.

Again, you really need to speakwith an immigration lawyer about the various options here.
posted by dfriedman at 7:39 AM on February 7, 2010

For the moment I'm going to ignore the visa problem and point you to The Teaching House in NYC, which offers free English classes.
posted by inmediasres at 8:51 AM on February 7, 2010

Can't make any specific school recommendations, but any school that's authorized to issue student visas (F-1) will be on the U.S. Department of State's list of SEVP approved schools:

Make sure you find a school that's on the list, and verify how many credits she needs to be enrolled in, at a minimum, to qualify for an F-1.
posted by snafu at 9:30 AM on February 7, 2010

Oops, probably should made that approved schools list a pretty link.
posted by snafu at 9:31 AM on February 7, 2010

Also ignoring the visa problem, the International Center of New York has great programs for learning English and American culture. I volunteered there a few years back, and now volunteer at one of their satellite programs. The classes aren't free though, unless you qualify for a scholarship. It's $350 for three months or $600 for a year's worth of programs.
posted by bergeycm at 10:42 AM on February 7, 2010

While I definitely recommend heeding the advice of someone who knows more than me, I thought I'd what I know about these things in case it helps.

I worked at an English school in Massachusetts, and while it's true that those of F-1 student visa status can't work legally in the country, there are plenty plenty of people who enroll as full-time English students in order to maintain their visa status. At least, in this one localized case of this school where I used to work. A lot of the students there were jazzed about learning the language while being in the U.S., but there were also the ones who were considerably more jazzed about the latter than the former, absolutely refusing to make an effort. It was distracting and bad morale for the serious students and teachers to work in the company of death glares from people who were only there because they were legally obligated to be. I think this particular school cornered that market though, if you get my meaning.

Unfortunately, the INS scared the shit out of some of the students in exceedingly unpleasant ways (for working or failing to attend class or living with family who weren't here legally). Although some were probably scared for good reason, I suspect that others weren't. And that is a damn shame.

It sounds like your girlfriend would genuinely get a lot out of an English school, and the only thing I can suggest for NYC is selecting one in which there were equally motivated students. If you have a chance to observe classes, pay attention not just to the teachers but the students' level of participation. In the more intermediate / advanced level classes, this won't be as much of a problem, as the students there tend to prove themselves as being dedicated to learning the language.

Again, just my experience and check (and recheck. and recheck) the laws to be certain. Good luck to the both of you!
posted by inkytea at 1:33 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Why are posters so coy about giving personal details? You think if you give the country we're all going to come visit you? What is the native language? The Japan Society in NYC has great English classes.
posted by JimN2TAW at 2:58 PM on February 7, 2010

CCNY has an English as a Second language department. Their website is really out of date, but you may want to try contacting them to get specific answers about what level of English proficiency is required for their classes.
posted by blueskiesinside at 4:04 PM on February 7, 2010

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