By Jen Gerson
A program will be launched to help professors who have trouble speaking English.
“We have many professors coming from other countries speaking English as a second language,” said Sheila O’Neill, acting director at the learning and teaching office. “Sometimes their research agenda runs ahead of their ability to speak English.”
The program, still in its infancy, would be voluntary for professors. While no one has been chosen to run the program, O’Neill expects a phonetician will be teaching pronunciation skills and grammar. The costs of the program have not been calculated, she suspects it could run between $1,000 to $2,000 per person enrolled.
O’Neill stressed that the program would be offered to professors who choose to indentify their trouble with English.
“I’m not a police officer listening in at keyholes,” said O’Neill, noting there is currently no way to assess a professor’s ability to communicate.
“First-year students had to write an English proficiency exam,” said Jakub Pawelczak, third-year mechanical engineering student. “We joked that the professors should have to write one too.
” Many senior students have learned to tackle their course load independently.
“You can ask [some of the professors] a question and they won’t understand what you’re asking them, but I don’t think it matters. Most of us study on our own anyways,” said Pawelczak.
Some professors don’t feel there’s a problem with communication skills.
“It’s a good program,” said Dr. Alagan Anpalagah, professor of electrical engineering. While he said the program could be useful for some disciplines, in engineering a term is a term; it doesn’t matter how it’s pronounced.
Isabella Fernando, a professor of mechanical engineering said the program “would help,” but she hadn’t noticed any difficulties.
“I think [English assessments] are a darn good idea,” said O’Neill, though she noted that there would likely be obstacles.
“In other countries they may have great grammar in their language, but that’s not English. English is a hard language,” said O’Neill.
“It’s not that big of a deal, we’re still here” said Pawelczak. “Sometimes [students] complain because they don’t understand the professor. But actually they don’t understand the course.”