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November 29, 2013

Foreign students entering US Universities at Record Numbers – Can they talk the talk?

Connected world image More than 800,000 foreign students are enrolled in US universities this school year, and the number is expected to climb – it has been doing so for the past seven years. China, India, and South Korea alone comprise half of these students, and keep your eye on Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait – their student enrollment in the US in on a notable rise. (

Unquestionably, these students are bright – they have high SAT, GMAT, and GRE scores. And, they obviously scored high enough on their TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) to gain admittance into their chosen program. These students’ parents and teachers have prepared them well academically, but there is one area that in general that could be better – the English speaking part.

As I finish up my MBA at Pepperdine University, I’ve had the opportunity to discuss my new business, The D’Angon Academy for Language Acquisition– an English immersion summer camp for pre-teens, with my professors. The first thing that they comment on, is that many of the classes they teach have predominantly foreign students, and on written tests – these students set the bar high, but when it comes to giving presentations (a constant requirement in business school), they falter. They aren’t confident, and are clearly uncomfortable speaking English in front of a group. One fellow native English speaking student told me the foreign students always want to recruit him to work in their group so he could handle the presentation part of the project.

So the solution? Parents who plan on sending their students to the US for college need to look for opportunities for their children to speak English at a younger age. Before puberty is ideal for two reasons: (1) The student can learn the second language without an accent (their vocal cords haven’t hardened yet). (2) Young children are not self-conscience about speaking their second language – so they’ll speak more frequently and without hesitation, which leads to quicker acquisition. Just to clarify, if parents want a minimal accent in their child’s English – find a native English speaking teacher or tutor for him or her. Also, if parents can afford it, they should send their child to the US at an early age during vacation. Their students will start preparing for college not only linguistically, but culturally and socially as well.

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Until next time!

About the author:
Barbara Dangond is the Executive Director of the D'Angon Academy for Language Acquisition.
For more on Barbara and the Language Program please visit the website. You can get in touch with her at

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