Students in the A.C.E. Language Institute spend 20 hours a week in intensive English language classes.
In a classroom on Seattle Pacific University’s campus, students from China, Japan, and Saudi Arabia, are discussing a project that made many of them nervous. The assignment: They had to approach native English speakers and interview them about their feelings.
“Please choose a partner who does not come from your country,” instructs teacher Emily Van Dyke-Morris ’01, MA ’03. The room gradually fills with the buzz of quiet conversations. A few minutes later, they stand up in front of the class, one by one, and describe the conversations they had.
“She felt embarrassed when she tripped,” reports one student.
“He feels comfortable when he visits a friend,” reports another.
Van Dyke-Morris coaches her students to look up and speak with confidence as they talk, and — one by one — they do.
Though they’re in a Seattle Pacific classroom, they’re actually attending a class through the A.C.E. Language Institute at SPU, a nonprofit provider of intensive English programs. With offices just blocks from SPU’s campus, A.C.E. has been partnering with Seattle Pacific since 1976. Groups of all ages — from Saudi teenagers to Korean teacher trainees — come to A.C.E. for intensive English language study, especially in Summer Quarter. During the school year, A.C.E. students get to know Seattle Pacific students through “Culture Connections,” a program that matches SPU student volunteers with A.C.E. students. The international students get English practice, and the SPU students get a glimpse of a wider world.
“I was living in a bubble — and it popped,” says Rebecca Perez, an SPU senior who works for A.C.E. and recruits her fellow SPU students to volunteer. Over the past several years she’s gotten to know dozens of international students and call them friends. Now, she hopes to teach English abroad after graduation.
Debbie Pope, assistant professor of communication, values the international perspectives of the A.C.E. students who have joined her communication classes. For instance, when dating comes up in her “Interpersonal Communication” class, the conversation is different with A.C.E. students from Saudi Arabia because they don’t date.
“It’s easy, if you don’t have exposure to people from other cultures, to know only what you know,” she says. “I think it’s enlightening for both groups.”
Many students attend the A.C.E. Language Institute with the goal of entering American universities — and more than a few go on to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees from SPU.