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688 - Intensive English and Academic Orientation
for Foreign Graduate Students
Summer 2016

July 1 - August 12

Click here for an application

Overview. EFS 688 is an intensive English and academic orientation program designed to prepare incoming international graduate students for full-time study in the autumn. Typically, about half the students are continuing to Stanford and the rest are going to other US graduate schools.  

EFS 688 is a 6-unit, credit course with 20 class hours per week lasting 6 weeks (July 1 August 12). The tuition cost for 2016 is $5,946.

Note that we also have special sections of this program for Visiting Scholars who are either currently at a US university or will be going to one during the 2016-2017 academic year. Click here for information on that program, EFS 688V.

This program provides a bridge between the students' years of formal study of the English language in their home countries and the situation they will soon be in that will require them to use English on a daily basis at a U.S. university.

The goals of this program are the following:

  • to improve the student's fluency and accuracy in English as much as possible during the period of instruction;
  • to develop the student's ability to continue learning and using effective communication strategies throughout the stay in the United States;
  • to provide an orientation to the expectations of the university, faculty, and peers both inside and out of the classroom;
  • to prepare students to be more confident and active participants in all aspects of their graduate programs.

Upon arrival, students are tested and placed into spoken language classes with others at their level of proficiency. Placement in writing classes is made according to academic area, with separate sections for business, humanities/social science, and engineering/science.

Reserved class times are MTThF 9:30-11:50 and 1:15-3:05 and Fridays 3:15-5:00. Elective courses (EFS 689 sections, see below) will be scheduled for late afternoons and Wednesdays. Due to the intensive nature of the instruction, we do not encourage students to take other Stanford courses while they are in this program.

In addition to classroom instruction, students may be doing work in the language laboratory and university libraries. Orientation to life at Stanford is provided by discussions, informal outings, and social events in conjunction with summer activities at Bechtel International Center and the dormitories. Informal advising will be provided by instructors and graduate and undergraduate students attached to the program.

All students who enroll in this program must agree to comply with the following requirements:

  • Speak only English in class and in all program activities.
  • Attend classes regularly, every session each day for all six weeks.
  • Fulfill all course requirements, including meeting paper deadlines.
  • Demonstrate substantial effort and progress in the development of communication skills in English necessary for academic success.

Core Classes

All students will have 20 class hours each week, divided among the following classes.

Listening Comprehension and Discussion. This class consists of activities involving listening to recorded excerpts from television, radio, and university lectures, with special emphasis on comprehending reduced forms, idiomatic expressions, and rapid speech. The content of these excerpts provides topics and issues so that students can get experience in talking freely in small groups with guidance from the instructor. The purpose is to prepare students to participate actively and effectively in group meetings, academic discussions and graduate seminars.

Effective Communication. This class provides practice in conversational English with emphasis on current usage in natural situations for both academic and everyday uses of English. It also includes training and practice in the presentation of prepared academic talks with feedback from the instructor and classmates. The language focus is on fluency and clear, effective pronunciation.

Writing. This seven hour/week class focuses on academic writing, with some work in reading and vocabulary development. As a final project, engineering, science, humanities, and social science students will write a research paper. Business students will write one or more case studies.

Consultation. This two hour/week class gives students the opportunity to meet with a current Stanford graduate student to get an insider's view of graduate school in the US. It includes discussion within academic interest groups, information on university requirements, and individual guidance on academic papers. Note that the structure for business sections is slightly different, involving guest speakers.

Academic Lecture Series. Each week includes a one-hour academic lecture by a Stanford faculty member. Presenters come from various departments but offer topics of general interest. This provides additional practice in listening comprehension and contact with Stanford professors and lecturers.

Community Lecture Series. On Friday afternoons, we host individual speakers and panels from the Stanford community speaking on topics of cultural interest. The presentation is followed by a social hour where students can interact with the guest speakers, EFS teaching staff and one another in a natural social setting.

Elective Classes: EFS 689 Series

In addition to the courses listed above, students in EFS 688 may take up to four elective courses. These are offered as sections of EFS 689, Special Topics in English. Each requires one additional unit of tuition (note two units for 689P Pronunciation): see the application for more information.

EFS 689A.  Exploring the Language and Culture of Sports in the USA
Develops familiarity with three of the most popular sports in the United States: football, baseball, and basketball. Beginning with an overview of the rules of each game and its history, students are introduced to the patterns of language that surround sports culture and pervade American communication even outside sports-related interactions. Students examine academic and popular sources on sports, focusing on the language of sports culture, metaphors, and idioms that occur in daily English language use through practice of the language forms both inside and outside the classroom.

EFS 689B:  Building Communication Skills through Improvisation
Would you like to be a more confident and spontaneous speaker in English?  How about a better listener and more effective team member? Improvisation gives you the tools to be more confident and collaborative with friends, in your classes, and in the workplace.  In this class, you will learn and practice theatrical improvisation games and techniques that will help you with spontaneity, team building, storytelling, and confident public speaking—all in a friendly and supportive environment. The course is co-taught by an improvisation expert and an English language instructor. No previous improvisation or theater experience necessary.

EFS 689H:  American Humor
Humor is an important part of life at American universities. Professors often tell jokes during lectures and group meetings, students like to "kid around", and campus newspapers feature editorial cartoons and humor columns. In this course, students study many examples of jokes and humorous stories that Americans find amusing, practicing advanced listening comprehension and expanding your understanding of English idioms at the same time. Note that this is an advanced class: An iBT TOEFL score of 100 or above is strongly recommended.

EFS 689L: Living in the USA
This course focuses on life and relationships outside the university classroom. The goal is to help you become familiar with the multiple expectations and the language usage that Americans bring to a variety of situations in the university and in other social situations you may encounter.  Among the many areas to be discussed are strategies for both casual and serious conversation, professional relationships in academe (including with professors, colleagues, and undergraduate students), interacting with neighbors and acquaintances, American social customs, and an introduction to the intersecting issues of race, religion, politics and gender. This course is particularly recommended for doctoral students or others who are anticipating an extended stay in the US.

EFS 689P:  Pronunciation
In this course, you will have two classes each week where elements of English pronunciation are explained, demonstrated, and practiced. This includes not only a review of the basic sounds, but also the stress, intonation and rhythm patterns so important to natural-sounding speech. You will also have several tutorial meetings with the instructor where you can get help with individual problems. (note: this class is 2 units)

EFS 689S: Exploring Silicon Valley Language and Culture
This course focuses on developing the communicative skills in the context of Silicon Valley with its unique culture and language patterns. By interacting with authentic materials, such as blogs and videos, you will gain familiarity with local norms for interacting with the people who live and work in Silicon Valley. You will engage in discussions about topics relevant to local entrepreneurs, workers, and students; in doing so, you will improve your ability to understand and produce appropriate language forms for various purposes. At the end of the term, you will be responsible for an individual project that demonstrates your understanding of issues pertinent to Silicon Valley culture or business such as an elevator pitch, a business proposal, or a critical essay. This class is particularly recommended for those who plan to live, work, or study in Silicon Valley.

EFS 689T:  Interacting in California's Vineyard Culture

This course serves as a vehicle for developing focused communicative skills in the context of California's renowned wine culture.  You will learn the language of wine: how to talk about wine informally using appropriate terminology, navigate restaurant wine lists, and interact knowledgeably with restaurant and retail wine staff. At the same time, you will become a more sophisticated consumer of wine by learning the fundamentals of vineyard techniques, varietal characteristics, tasting techniques, and drinking and ordering etiquette. Classes are co-taught by a wine expert and an ESL instructor.  Each class meeting will consist of a short interactive lecture, a communicative activity such as role playing, and a tasting of four specially selected wines. Additional  fee of $100.00 (cash only) must be brought to the first class meeting.  Participants must be at least 21 years old.

EFS 689V:  Vocabulary and Idiom
One of the most difficult aspects of a new language is learning to use and understand idioms and metaphors. This course takes an analytical approach to the study of idiomatic language, analyzing idioms and metaphors in order to understand what they reflect about American culture. Students also discuss the history of words and the ways that Americans combine words to invent new ones. Class time will include exercises to practice idioms and advanced vocabulary.

Application Process

Updated: February 29, 2016