English Language Institute Provides Learning Resource for Campus and Community


(Photo Courtsey of Stuart Ruckman)

By Allison Stuart, News Writer


After moving to the United States from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2018, University of Utah English Learning Institute student Patricia Dutra found herself struggling with her English skills.

It’s really important for me to be here [in the United States] and to know the language that is big talking around here,” she said.

In order to advance her career, Dutra chose to take a class at the ELI, which aims to help students locally and internationally with their English skills.

“I think that we’re kind of like one of the best-kept secrets around campus,” said Brian Parrott, an instructor with the ELI.

The ELI website states their mission since 1990 has been to “provide our students with the opportunity to learn English in an academic setting, make new friends, and experience American culture in an enriching and welcoming program on the beautiful University of Utah campus.”

Located in the Research Park portion of campus, the institute offers classes for people 17 and up. 

Parrott said there are nighttime classes, targeted more toward adult community members looking to learn English, and daytime classes — which are part of the Intensive English Program (IEP) — for potential university students.

“This is generally about 80% international students,” said Parrott, who’s also the nighttime activities director for the ELI.

In order for international students to qualify for education at the U, they must pass an English proficiency test called the Test of English as a Foreign Language. TOEFL measures English skills like writing, reading, speaking and listening for people who are learning English as a second language.

Parrott said there are about 200 students in IEP and the night program. 

IEP serves as a remedial class option for students who do not score high enough — 80 out of 100 points — on the TOEFL, according to Parrott. 

The length of time students choose to stay involved in the IEP can vary, Parrott said.

“They are sometimes looking to just get English skills and then move on, so they might stay with us for a semester,” Parrott said. 

There are eight levels of daytime classes offered, and once a student completes all levels, they can begin as a student at the U. Parrott noted that keeping the programs financially accessible remains important. 

“I think that that thing that most people are surprised about is how affordable it is,” he said.

(Photo Courtesy of Stuart Ruckman)

Community members who are learning English can also take a nighttime class with ELI. A pre-course placement test qualifies the student, according to Parrott. There are general English courses, which are for beginner to medium-level English learners.

The Zions Evening ESL program is a more advanced program. The Zions program costs each student $200 plus an additional $55 for the textbook. All other program costs are paid for by Zions Bank.

English was a big barrier for Dutra to advance her career, and the Zions night intensive course was able to help her reach her goals, both personally and professionally. 

“This course is what I needed to take me there,” Dutra said. “I had a recent promotion in my job. And I needed English because I needed to talk to the clients.” 

Dutra recalled meeting other people who came from out of the U.S. when she first moved to the country who were “immobilized by fear” and didn’t learn English. 

“I’ve met people that have been here for 15 years and they don’t speak English at all,” Dutra said. “They are still in their bubble and that’s why it is so important to be outside. I think this is why I would tell everybody to take the course.”

She also used the course to connect with people from different backgrounds.

“I think it’s good when you are exchanging different experiences,” Dutra said. “And the [other classmates] are really good, they are really smart. This is why I like to be in this environment with so many cultures together.”

Even though her course is coming to an end, Dutra is looking forward to learning more and continuing to improve her skills.

One of Parrott’s missions with the ELI program is to increase overall enrollment and general student numbers, aligning with U President Taylor Randall’s goal to increase enrollment.

“If you are looking for a way to improve your English skills, this is the perfect opportunity,” Parrott said. “There are some other places that do English courses for community learners around Salt Lake, but I think the quality of our teachers and our facilities are much better … [our students benefit] because we’re universally located on the campus.”


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