ESL and IEP Programs



English as a Second Language Programs
English as a Second Language (ESL) programs provide non-English-speaking students an opportunity to learn the English language and, often times, apply their language studies to other academic subjects such as mathematics, science, and history. While many intensive English programs focus on language development, ESL programs often times take a more holistic approach and provide students with opportunities to learn English and apply it to academic, social, and cultural situations. ESL classes are often times small, and place a particular emphasis on making students feel comfortable as they navigate and apply the English language to their lives and studies.

ESL programs are offered through numerous public and private organizations in the United States such as language institutes, colleges, and universities. They offer various levels of instruction (from beginning to advanced) and curriculum designed to help non-native speakers understand and practice the English language’s various (and sometimes confusing) structures, nuances, and applications. More specifically, ESL programs give students instruction in:

  • English vocabulary
  • English grammar
  • English pronunciation
  • Differences between written and spoken English
  • English slang
  • Cultural and social underpinnings of the English language and society in which it is spoken

In ESL programs, students typically have the option to engage in a more specialized focus, and to learn:

  • General English;
  • Academic English;
  • Executive English (for students interested in working in International business or management)
  • Technical English (for students interested in working with English-speaking tech firms); or
  • Test preparation (for students preparing to take the Graduation Record Exam [GRE] or other college-entrance exams)

ESL programs can be useful to any students who wish to better understand and be more facile with the use of the English language. They can be especially beneficial to students who need a slower, more expansive introduction to the English language and its various applications.

ESL programs can be short-term but are often times long-term, lasting anywhere from several months to several years.

Intensive English Programs
Intensive English Programs (IEPs) allow students to engage in a rigorous, intentional, and often times short-term study of the English language. Curriculums vary from basic to advanced and often times focus on a particular track such as travel, academic, social, technical, or otherwise specialized English. Similar to ESL programs, IEPs focus primarily on providing instruction in English vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and usage, but, unlike ESL programs, place less of an emphasis on the social and cultural underpinnings of the society in which the English is spoken.

IEPs are typically shorter-term lasting anywhere from three to twelve weeks (or longer depending on the program). Students in IEPs often times start at a basic level and advance through multiple curriculums, or test into a higher level to begin. IEPs are great for students who need to learn the English language relatively quickly and feel confident they can do so through intensive study. IEPs are offered through private and public organizations such as language institutes, colleges, or universities.

IEPs typically require students to study the English language for several hours/day, five to six days/week. Because these courses are “intensive”, they’re designed to move quickly and can be quite intense. Knowing whether or not you pick up languages quickly can help you decide whether or not IEPs are right for you. Whether or not you choose to attend an IEP or ESL program might also depend on the amount of time you have to devote to your studies (both on a daily and weekly basis, and depending on how much time you have to spend in the United States for a language program).


Annie Rose Stathes is a Colorado-based writer, teacher and political scientist. Her background is in international affairs and she holds a Master of Arts degree in Political Science.