ESL Frequently Asked Questions

What kinds of ESL classes are offered?

Classes offer practice in the four main language skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The classes are divided into levels for beginners, low intermediate, high intermediate, and advanced levels.

Durham Tech also provides specialized classes in the afternoons in the following skill areas: conversation, reading and writing, and pronunciation. Our classes focus on teaching basic English for practical matters such as finding work and visiting the doctor. Durham Tech offers a few other classes more academic in nature such as TOEFL preparation and EFL (English classes for academic purposes.)

Who can take these classes?

Anyone who is a non-native speaker of English can enroll in ESL classes as long as that person is 18 years of age or older. We do have limited space in classes; and if someone is only planning to be in the United States for a very short period of time (such as two months), we will need to give priority for classroom space to someone who can attend for the entire semester. Sometimes students with very good English skills want to enroll in these classes in order to polish their English. If you are at a level of proficiency where you only have minor errors in speaking or writing, you may not find these classes challenging enough.

Where are classes held?

ESL classes are offered in nearly every building on Durham Tech’s Main Campus, both during the days and evenings. Class locations change every semester, so it’s important to check in at the ESL office at the beginning of the semester for current classroom locations.

The ESL office is located in the White Building, room 58. The phone number is 919-536-7264.

We also have classes in a few community locations in Durham, as well as a large program in Orange County. Over 40 percent of our students take classes in Chapel Hill! Many of these classes meet in churches in the downtown area. We also offer classes in Carrboro and Hillsborough. Check the ESL class schedule for the most current information.

How can someone enroll in classes?

The first step is to attend one of our placement testing sessions. Testing for Durham classes usually happens two months before the semester begins. In other words, Durham Tech offers testing in November for classes starting in January; in April or May for classes starting in June; and in July for classes starting in September. Testing for Chapel Hill classes is one or two weeks before the semester starts.

There are many students who want to enroll in these classes, and it’s good to plan ahead if you want to take classes with us. Occasionally, we can add students after the testing dates have occurred, but this is not common.

My friend wants to take classes, but she doesn’t know any English. Does she really have to take the test?

Yes. We do need to have every student make an attempt to take our test. It’s perfectly fine if someone can’t answer any of the questions—we have a class for students who are total beginners. Please realize, too, that an important part of learning a language is trying new things. The test is just one of many new things that a student will try in this program.

How many students are admitted in each class?

Most classes are fairly large, with about 24 students as the average class. . Don’t be surprised if you enroll in a class and there are over 30 students! This is actually a great way to meet a lot of new and interesting people. Within each class, the instructors try to get to know the students and provide individual attention as necessary.

Are all of your students Spanish-speakers?

No. Although over 60 percent of our students speak Spanish as a first language, we actually have students from over 60 countries each semester. Instructors teach English in English. We actually encourage students from different countries and different language backgrounds to work together when doing partner or group activities.

How much do the classes cost?

The classes are free. In some cases, students may need to buy books for class. These usually cost less than $30.

Can I get a student visa to study ESL at Durham Tech?

No. You can only get a student visa if you are taking classes for credit. ESL classes are noncredit.

Can I sit in on as ESL class without enrolling? Can my friend/spouse/parent come to class as a visitor?

Only registered students are allowed in the ESL classrooms. No visitors are permitted. This includes friends and family members. It is especially important not to bring children to classes! There are a few sites (including elementary schools) that offer childcare for the children of ESL students; but in these cases, the children are in a separate room from the ESL classes.

What else do I need to know?

Learning a language can take a long time. Students who practice English a lot outside of class tend to learn faster than those who only speak English when they’re in class. It’s important to practice all of the different aspects of English: reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

Some days, learning a language will seem very difficult and you may feel discouraged. It is important to keep trying. Things really will start to seem easier if you keep making a consistent effort to learn.