ESL Services for International Students

English as a Second Language (ESL) Services

The law school's English as a Second Language Services help students improve their English language skills and, more generally, assists students with the challenges of being advanced English language learners at a U.S. law school. All services are offered or coordinated by an expert in English as a Second Language.

Diagnostic Writing Assessment

The Diagnostic Writing Assessment (DWA) is a thirty minute essay writing assessment that informs students about their overall English language writing skills and about specific strengths and weaknesses. Four major skill areas - fluency, organization, vocabulary, and grammar - are assessed, as are additional subordinate skills, such as grammatical level and overall coherence and unity.

Private ESL Consultation

Northwestern Law has an in-house ESL specialist who can support international students with their language difficulties and questions, including provide one-on-one tutoring, if necessary. Please contact Nell.Novara@law.northwestern.edu to make an appointment.

Discussion Groups

Bi-Weekly discussion groups facilitated by NU Alumni, faculty, staff, and community and/or business leaders are offered each semester to help students immerse themselves in an English-speaking environment and maximize opportunities to develop overall English abilities.

Students often form friendships with fellow students of diverse native languages and cultures and with the discussion group host. Discussions generally center on news - especially news related to law, politics, or business - and students' cultural challenges and adventures.

Debate Club

Debate Club sessions are offered each semester to help students improve their argumentative speaking skills. Students sign up for the debate in advance and receive the topic and a few short articles in the days before the session. In the debate, students prepare an argument with their teammates and alternate speaking positions. The school’s ESL specialist moderates all debates and provides individualized feedback at the end of the session.

International Writing Fellows Program

Second language students have access to the Law School’s International Writing Fellows. International Writing Fellows are second- or third-year law students who are recommended by Communication and Legal Reasoning professors to work with international students. These fellows assist students with the English language aspects of law school writing assignments. In an appointment, a Writing Fellow typically edits a small portion of a student's assignment and then uses the revealed pattern of errors to provide the student with editing strategies.

Pronunciation Workshops & Software

Ongoing pronunciation workshops are offered to all international students. Workshops focus on various topics, such as intonation, stress, or typical errors for a specific first language group. The Law School also has an agreement to provide access to Native Accent pronunciation software at an extremely reduced fee to all international students. This cutting-edge software utilizes speech recognition technology and an intelligent tutor system to dramatically improve pronunciation.

Speaking Feedback Tests

Throughout the semester students may sign up for the Speaking Feedback Test. By providing the ESL specialist with a timed sample of speech, detailed feedback and suggestions for improvement are provided.

Intensive Writing Workshops

The Intensive Writing Workshops are a series of six workshops offered each semester to provide students with additional writing practice and support beyond their law school coursework. Students who participate in the program are required to attend each meeting and will complete short writing assignments before each session. Topics covered include general writing organization, paragraph structure, sentence-level clarity, and revision strategies.  

Grammar & Sentence Structure Workshops

Throughout the semester, grammar and sentence structure workshops are offered on a variety of topics, such as clauses, articles, verb tenses, and so on. These workshops give students the opportunity to review and practice areas of English grammar and sentence structure that are commonly difficult for students.

Writing Feedback Tests

Throughout the semester students may sign up for the Writing Feedback Test. By providing the ESL specialist with a timed sample of writing, detailed feedback and suggestions for improvement are provided.