English as a
Second Language

English as a <br>Second Language

English as Second Language

Chair: Barbara J. Porter, PhD

Program Overview

The English as a Second Language (ESL) Program at Canisius is a part-time program intended to assist all international students with the improvement of their English language skills. Our ESL Program is not an intensive language program, but a special academic support program designed to assist both exchange students visiting for a study abroad experience and international students seeking a degree.

Evaluation and Placement

  • All international students, including both exchange students and degree seeking students, must have their language skills evaluated.
  • Students are initially screened based on application materials including scores on TOEFL or IELTS as well as transcripts indicating coursework in English at other institutions.
  • Those students whose test scores and other documentation suggest language competency at approximately a high intermediate level will be waived from testing. 
  • Students without TOEFL, IELTS and other internationally recognized documentation will be asked to complete a comprehensive language assessment test given during International Student Orientation. Students with limited documentation and low TOEFL or IELTS scores will also be tested. This allows us to identify the best course work for each student’s needs. Students who demonstrate advanced proficiency in English on the placement test will place out of ESL courses.



  • Courses are offered in all four language areas including reading, writing, speaking and listening.
  • The purpose of these courses is to assist students with the development of the language skills they will need in both academic and social settings.
  • Classes are small and provide not only language instruction but social support.
  • Some students are still developing basic English language skills and take introductory ESL courses exclusively in the first semester.
  • On some occasions, usually in the first semester, students with less than ideal language competencies can take as many as 12 credits of ESL in preparation for more demanding and challenging content courses.
  • Most students find it an advantage to combine a number of ESL courses with carefully selected content courses as they adjust to the demands of study in another language. 
  • In all instances, matriculating students can use ESL courses to fulfill free elective credit requirements. 
  • Some ESL courses fulfill core curriculum requirements. Exchange students who need ESL courses will use those courses for transfer back to their home institution.


For more information on the ESL program and resources for English language learners please go to

Learning Goals and Objectives

For learning goals and objectives please go to



  • International exchange students are advised by the appropriate Associate Dean or an advisor designated by the Associate Dean.
  • International students seeking a degree should have an advisor in their major and should contact the department directly to have an advisor assigned if they do not already have one. 
  • All majors should work closely with their advisor(s) in their major(s) in discussing career expectations, choosing their major electives, developing their entire academic program and planning their co-curricular or supplemental academic experiences.