Language & Culture Support

Contact Brea Barthel, the Comm+D Language and Culture Support Specialist, for more information:
Email: barthb2@rpi.edu
Phone:
518-276-3241
Office: 155 Folsom Library

We recognize that non-native English-speaking students have varied needs when improving communication skills and adjusting to English. We are proud to offer both tutoring and language & culture support to address these needs!

We highly encourage non-native English-speaking students to make appointments with TAs or mentors through our scheduler for help with individual projects, including personal work, class assignments, application essays for graduate school, and cover letters for job applications. Our mentors and teaching assistants are trained to work with multilingual students and explain typical difficulties with English writing and speaking. We are not language teachers, but are happy to help with oral presentations, grammar, vocabulary, native English idioms, etc. In addition, all students have access to the Comm+D’s online resources (also accessible through our Resources tab).

Comm+D offers a number of opportunities and resources for adapting to American language and culture, including:

Do you have ideas for ways we can support the transition to American language and culture? Brea welcomes your suggestions and requests!

Assessment of International TA Speaking Skills

Assessment of international graduate teaching assistants’ speaking skills identifies new ITAs who need to improve their oral communication skills to be effective both for the TA and the students they will be teaching. Comm+D provides support to help them do so.

International graduate students who are offered a teaching assistantship have an initial language assessment, which results in one of three possible outcomes: sufficient skills, with no further testing needed; skills that need development through courses and self-study before the TA can work with a group of students; or skills that have a mix of strengths and weaknesses, requiring additional assessment in a brief interactive presentation.

For ITAs who are required, or wish, to improve their spoken English, Comm+D offers a course on Oral Communication each semester.  In the spring, non-TAs, including other graduate students, family members, undergraduates, or others, may be able to join the course as space allows.

Test of Spoken English
Teaching involves stronger communication challenges, and a higher level of language skill, than just being a student. New international teaching assistants (ITAs) whose first language is not English must have their speaking skills assessed to be sure that the skill is sufficient to promote success for themselves and the students with whom they will work.

SPEAK Test
The SPEAK test is approximately 20 minutes long, and evaluates speaking skills in a variety of aspects.  A sample test can be viewed at http://cte.illinois.edu/testing/pdf/TSE_SampleTest060906.pdf .

There are seven sections on the test that involve:

Testing is done by appointment only. The student will have a printed booklet and taped instructions, and record themselves on equipment provided by Comm+D.

After the test a trained evaluator rates the student’s oral communication based on their pronunciation, grammar, fluency, and overall comprehensibility. The test is scored on a scale of 20 – 60, and results are sent to the student, plus the appropriate graduate program director and graduate program administrator. The points below describes the process and outcomes of test scores.