Resources for Non-Native Speakers

One-on-one Meetings with ELI Staff for Language Assistance:

International students, researchers and professors who need help with English grammar or seek to improve their accent or fluency in English are invited to meet as needed in a one-on-one setting with ELI staff to assist you with individual challenges.  For more information or to set up an appointment, email Belinda Braunstein at

Speaking and Pronunciation Resources:

1. Wise Old Sayings: Public Speaking
Many native speakers and non-native speakers alike struggle with formal, public presentations. This site has a list of resources to help you prepare for your next research presentation or other public speaking event. It also includes a list of apps (mostly for Apple products) you can download to your phone to help you prepare your presentation.
For years people have used this University of Iowa site to hear the sounds of American English and watch simultaneous animation that shows tongue placement, lip movement, and vocalization for each sound. Flash is needed to see the graphics. 
If you are having trouble hearing the difference between two similar vowel sounds in English, the Minimal Pairs page of this website should help. The Lessons page includes pronunciation, spelling, and practice of vowels, consonants, and combinations, as well as other sound features of American English. 
Reading Help:

1. How to Read a Scientific Paper

Are you overwhelmed with the number of scientific studies you have to read? Here is some useful advice on how to go about your reading to save time. (Great for grad students!)

Writing & Grammar Resources:
1. Purdue OWL (Writing & grammar)
Many American universities provide links to this site, which comes from Purdue university. The "General Writing" link has grammar exercises, information about rhetoric, a section for ESL, and much more. OWL stands for Online Writing Lab. It is very well regarded.
2. The UNC Writing Center
This page from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has dozens of links to digital "handouts" on many, many aspects of writing, such as audience, paragraph development, and various forms of punctuation. It's useful! 
3. Scientific Writing Resource (Writing, especially for graduate students)
Duke University offers a wonderful how-to site on effective scientific writing especially for graduate students, but also useful for upper division undergraduates. It includes explanations, examples, and worksheets designed into 45-minute lessons.
4. College Writing Guide (Writing, especially for undergraduates)
This site briefly describes the types of writing one usually does in college and common writing pitfalls to avoid. Links to university sites provide guidance on different elements from writing thesis statements to preparing for essay exams.
5. GrammarCheck Infographics (Writing/Grammar, especially for undergraduates)
Have you every wished you could think of a better word for something when writing? Here you will find more than two dozen informative and entertaining infographics about a wide range of writing and grammar topics from "12 Common Writing Mistakes" to "18 Common Words and What You Can Use Instead" and "16 Persuasive Writing Secrets and Influential Words." 
6. Grammarly Handbook (Grammar handbook)
Think of this as a virtual grammar handbook that describes various grammatical rules and offers examples of correct and incorrect use. The rules are broken down into different categories. The site also offers suggestions related to academic writing, composition, style, editing, etc.
7. Grammarly Answers (Answers for your questions)
Grammarly Answers is a free service where users can ask and answer any question related to English grammar and writing. Any person can ask for help there and receive an answer. Additionally, users can try to answer questions themselves and improve their English through explaining concepts to others. 
8. English Grammar Online (Grammar: prepositions)
For those who have trouble with prepositions (in, on, at, etc.) in English, here is a quick chart that covers the basics. It includes short quizzes. It does not include common prepositional phrases.
9. Activities for ESL Students (Simple grammar exercises)
Although some some exercises on this site might to be too simple for you, it could serve as a review. It contains specific, interactive grammar exercises from "easy" to "difficult" ranging from verb forms to when to use articles (a/an/the).
Teaching Resources for Non-Native Speakers:

1. Useful Expressions for Class (for TAs)

How well do you know the appropriate "signal phrases" to use while teaching in English? This handout, from the workshop at each year's TA Orientation, has expressions to use for many purposes (pointing out what's important, getting students' attention, etc.) in the classes you teach.

American Culture and University Culture:

This brief guide to American culture includes information about friendships, tipping, and name conventions.
The Online Writing Lab also provides very valuable advice in "US Higher Education: A Cultural Introduction."
Dissertation Help for PhD Students:
UNC: The Writing Center - Dissertations
Here is practical advice on starting, drafting, and completing your dissertation, as well as half a dozen useful dissertation-related links at the end of the page.
Individual Work with American Speechsounds Program:

American Speechsounds software helps you recognize desired pronunciation and practice using your own ear as a guide to what sounds right. Its exercises comprise two steps: 1) teach yourself to distinguish correctly pronounced words with the "Listen and choose" activity, and 2) record your speech and compare it to the model's. Regular daily practice - at least 20 minutes per day - is recommended. A CD-ROM is available for international staff, faculty and students to borrow and use on their own computers. You can request the CD-ROM by emailing Belinda at the address above. 

Recommended Books to Help with Writing!

  • Scientific Writing & Communication: Papers, Proposals, & Presentations, 3rd ed., by Angelika Hofmann (Oxford University Press)
  • Science Research Writing for Non-Native Speakers of English, by Hilary Glasman-Deal (Imperial College Press)
  • Academic Writing for Graduate Students: Essential Tasks & Skills, 3rd ed., by John Swales and Christine Feak (Univ. of Michigan Press)

Each of the books listed above covers areas of scientific writing for publication and communication, and they all include exercises to help you analyze and practice the skills you are learning. New and used versions are available for purchase on various websites. You can also flip through a copy of each in the ELI office (AOA 112) as a preview.

U.S. Classroom Vocabulary for International TAs:

Verbs & Meanings

“All set?” – Are you ready? Is everybody ready?

be graded down - receive a grade that is lowered by an undetermined amount

drop a course grade – lower a grade, for example, from B to B-     

fill in – write information in blank spaces of a document/quiz/exam/text

get back / give back - return work to students

get back to – return to a previous topic; reply to a person after a period of time

go over - review

grade on a curve - assigning grades designed to yield a predetermined distribution of grades 

hand in / turn in - submits work (to the instructor)

hand out / pass out – distribute to students          

lose points – receive less than full credit for an assignment for specific reasons

make (obj.) up – (academic meaning) receive credit for doing an alternative on a curve - move on – continue on to the next topic

pass back - return work to students; also, to pass documents toward the back of the room

skip – pass over an item without reading, completing the problem, etc.

turn to – go to a specific page in a text             

Nouns & Meanings

cheat sheet – an approved or non-approved paper with course content to use for reference during an exam

credit – points or recognition of work done toward a course/exam/assignment grade

“easy A” – a class or assignment for which it is easy to do well

extra credit – points for doing work beyond what is required for a course

full credit – maximum points available for an assignment

make-up test – a test taken to replace one that has been missed for a legitimate reason

make-up policy – rules regarding alternative work done to replace something that was missed

partial credit – getting some of the possible points available for an assignment instead of an “all or nothing” approach (commonly used for problems in which students have to show work done to arrive at an answer)

prerequisite – a course required before another (e.g. Math 05 before Math 18)

review session – a formal or informal class meeting to review exam items before an exam

study guide – a guide provided by an instructor/TA to help students prepare for an exam

take-home exam – an exam that students can complete off campus

used textbook – a previously owned/used textbook, usually cheaper than new

Below are answers to the cloze exercise from "Communicating with Your Students," part of CETL's TA Orientation. The sentences are not related to each other.

1. TA: I will give back (pass back) homework within one week of receiving it.

2. Student: Will we lose points if we miss a lab?

3. Student: If I don’t understand a homework problem, can I just skip it and do the next one? Or should I try anyway?

4. TA: Okay, everyone. Please turn to page 113 and look at #4.

5. Student: Will there be a review session (or study guide available) before the midterm? 

Last update: 6/26/17

Reading Resources

Overwhelmed with the number of scientific studies you have to read? Here is some useful advice on how to go about your reading to save time. (Great for grad students!)