Welcome to the West Valley College ESL Program

West Valley College offers beginning level to advanced classes. Our six-level program begins with a basic 4-skills course (listening, speaking, reading, and writing). The next five levels have three courses at each: grammar/writing (GW), listening/speaking (LS), and reading/vocabulary (RV).


Step 1: Apply to the College

Fill out a free application to the college. Instructions and application can be found here.

Step 2: Take placement test

Decide if you should take the ESL placement test:

  • If your main (native) language is not English, then you should take the ESL placement test.
  • If your education in elementary school and high school was all in English, then you should take the English (not ESL) placement test.

Step 3: Check the placement test results

Check your placement test results:

  • online at the WVC portal (you will need your student ID and password)
  • at the Assessment Office in the Counseling Building – ask for Azar Babakan at 408-741-2035.

Step 4: Check the Class Schedule for ESL classes at your level

Choose classes that fit your schedule – take one, two, or all three classes (GW, LS, and RV) at each level.

Step 5: Register for classes, pay for classes, fees and a parking permit

  • Register for classes on the WVC portal. You will need your student ID number and password and a credit card.
  • For help with registration, go to the Admissions and Records office.

Step 6: Attend an orientation (class, workshop, or online)

Find more information about orientations.

Step 7: Go to classes

Labs for ESL Students

Students are encouraged to use the labs. Extra practice in the labs helps students improve their language skills.

ESL Skills Lab

The ESL Skills Lab is located in the West Valley College Library. The ESL Skills Lab helps ESL students with grammar, vocabulary, listening, reading, spelling, and writing. An ESL instructor is present to answer your questions. The Skills Lab also hosts workshops on various grammar points and conversation groups where you can practice your spoken English. Call Isabel Filiz, Coordinator at (408) 741-2053 for more information.

World Languages Center

The World Languages Center (WLC) is located in the Language Arts Building, LA/SS 42. The WLC has 37 computers with microphones available. Use the WLC to access your language class software. You can practice speaking and listening, pronunciation, or access language websites for multi-skill practice, Monday through Friday. The World Language Center also hosts workshops on topics including: Microsoft Word, Canvas, and email for ESL students. Call Ellen Goldman, Coordinator at (408) 741-4042 for more information.

Enrollment

Come to the ESL Skills Lab or World Language Center with your ID card. No enrollment is necessary.

Instructors

Gail Barta

Gail Ann Barta came to West Valley in 1991 and has been teaching ESL since 1974. Her interest in teaching and working with people from other cultures has given her the opportunity to travel to various parts of the world, including Europe, Africa, and Asia. She was a foreign student in France, a Peace Corps volunteer in Tunisia, and an ESL instructor in Japan. Originally from the Chicago area, Gail's interests include traveling, cooking, movies, hockey, and baseball.

Isabel Filiz

Isabel Filiz returned to West Valley College in 2012 where she had previously worked as the ESL Skills Coordinator from January 2000 until June 2001. Her interest in teaching and working with people from other cultures started at home with her European mother, who worked at Berlitz School of Languages in Palo Alto, California. After Isabel finished her B.A. in English from Santa Clara University, she lived and taught in Italy where she was able to travel to many places as far and wide as York, England to Istanbul, Turkey. After finishing her M.A. in English from Claremont University, she began her ESL career in 1994 at Santa Clara Adult Education and Sunnyvale-Cupertino Adult Education. In her free time, Isabel likes going to concerts and movies, playing guitar, and spending time with her family.

Ellen Goldman

Sylvia Ortega

Sylvia Ortega has been teaching at West Valley since 1997. She was born and raised in California by immigrant parents from Michoacan, Mexico. She enjoys visiting family and friends there as often as possible. Sylvia received a Bachelor's degree in Spanish with a Special Emphasis in Ethnic Studies from Santa Clara University and a Masters degree in TESOL from San Jose State University. While she teaches English to her students, she learns about their culture and customs. Sylvia currently lives in San Jose with her family.

Ann Marie Wasserbauer

Ann Marie Wasserbauer has been teaching at West Valley College since 1994. She has a bachelor’s degree from Xavier University in German and History and studied for two years at the Bertolt Brecht Universitaet in Augsburg, Germany. She also received her masters degree in TESOL at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

International Partners Program

Whether you speak English fluently or English is your second language, the International Partners Program can help you to...

  • increase your confidence in dealing with unfamiliar situations
  • learn ways to talk to anyone about anything
  • develop your ability to take risks
  • strengthen your sense of humor
  • speak with people from California and around the world
  • prepare for a job

What is the International Partners Program (IPP)?

The International Partners Program is an on-campus international student exchange program available to all West Valley College students. The program was developed by teachers in 1993 to help American and international students to get to know one another better. It is similar to a pen pal service; however, students actually meet their "pen pal" face-to-face. Students are matched according to their weekly schedules and interests. Partners meet each other at times that are convenient for both of them, for one hour minimum during three consecutive week. Many West Valley instructors give extra credit for participating in the program.

How do I get an international partner?

Contact the coordinator, Sylvia Ortega, at sylvia.ortega@westvalley.edu, directly by phone (408) 741-2465, or in LA/SS 3L at West Valley College. Fill out an application form. Once you are matched with a partner, the coordinator will contact you with information about your international partner (name, age, interests, phone number, best time to call and a brief letter of introduction).

What should I do when I meet my international partner?

Most students spend the first hour sitting in the WVC library cafe or cafeteria and just talking. They talk about everyday things like family, school, work, hobbies, and other interests. They share pictures of their family and friends and learn new words or expressions in their partner's language. When they meet a second time, many students like to:

  • go off campus, relax, and talk at a cafe
  • compare food in the U.S. with food from other countries
  • visit an ethnic grocery store or restaurant
  • visit a bookstore together
  • take a walk in a park
  • share idioms, jokes, and slang
  • share photos of family, friends, and pets

Comments from IPP Participants

International

"I don't feel nervous anymore when I speak English."

"I feel more comfortable talking with Americans now."

"I can speak English a lot [better] than before."

"I met my partner at the school cafeteria and coffee shops at convenient times after school. The program gave me a good chance to talk with a native speaker and understand American culture."

"My partner was so open-minded! I didn't have to hesitate to start a sentence."

"I learned some American slang and [more about the] young people's culture."

"I got along very well with my American partner because both of us are married and we have a lot of things in common. We talked about our culture, family and our foods. I think this is a great program to [become] familiar with people from other cultures and to find good friends."

American

"I feel more comfortable starting conversations with people from other cultures [now]."

"I am able to understand people with accents better."

"I was surprised at how much my partner's English improved this semester."

"We 'traded languages'! I learned a lot of Spanish from her and she learned a lot of English from me."

"I'll always remember how friendly she was and how easily we got along."

"I appreciate other cultures more now because I saw how difficult it was for [my partner] to adapt to American culture. I am also more inclined to listen to news reports about my partner's native country because I know more [about it]."

"Sometimes people feel that immigrants don't want to have anything to do with our society. One positive thing I learned from our interactions was that my partner was very interested in learning about American culture."

Resources for ESL Students

At West Valley College

Grammar, Writing, and Vocabulary on the Web

Listening on the Web

  • Randall's Cyber Listening Lab a great place to practice listening at various skill levels
  • Elllo Lots of listening activities with a transcript and interactive vocabulary and comprehension quizzes
  • Breaking News English Current world news based on date or theme
  • Listen and Write  23 levels of dictation difficulty.  A fun way to practice listening and spelling from news, popular songs, & more!
  • English Central  speaking and vocabulary practice from commercials, movies, lectures, and news
  • English Club - dictations and listen to the news with vocabulary and comprehension questions
  • Voice of America worldwide news for English learners

Multi-skill Websites

  • Computer skills - great presentations on Microsoft Office, internet, email, and computer basics from the Everyday Life Project. Practical interactive presentations on food, money, jobs, and more. 
  • Many Things - word games, puzzles, spelling, stories, scrambled sentences, and fun stuff for ESL students
  • BBC Learning English - word games, grammar, pronunciation, videos, and a fun soap opera series, The Flatmates.
  • Rong Chang's ESL page  - short stories, sentence structure writing practice, listening, vocabulary, pronunciation, and more!

Sources for Authentic Listening on the Web

Employment Opportunities for ESL Students

Instructional Lab Assistant

We'd love to have you work for our lab if

  • you can interact effectively with people whose first language is not English
  • you can meticulously look at sentences and find the grammar errors easily
  • you can answer the phone, keep records, and multitask

If you are a student at West Valley taking at least 6 units, please contact Gail Barta for information at (408) 741-2482.

Work Study Aide for ESL Department

We'd love to have you work for our department if you are a full-time student and qualify for the work study program. Please contact the Financial Aid office for information on the Work Study Program at (408) 741-4639. See our Job Opening postings at the Financial Aid Office.

Professional Resources for Teachers, Graduate Students, and Publishers

ESL Class Observations

The faculty of the ESL Department would like to invite you to visit the program. Just choose the class(es) you would like to observe using the course schedule. Then contact the instructor(s) that you would like to observe (give them at least a week's notice).

For directions and a map of the campus. You'll need 12 quarters for parking.

Professional Organizations

If you want to keep current in the field, consider becoming a member of one or both of these organizations:

Relevant Websites

West Valley College does not offer graduate-level TESOL courses. If you're interested in getting a certificate or MA in TESOL, here are four institutions in the Bay Area that you could consider.

Employment Opportunities for ESL Professionals

Associate Faculty Pool

The West Valley-Mission Community College District maintains a joint associate faculty pool.

For general questions, call HR at (408) 741-2155 or visit Human Resources.

last published: 5/17/18