Hundreds of International Students Learn English at CPELI

Hundreds of International Students Learn English at CPELI
Randy Burger, director of CPELI, asks questions during English class.
Between classes, students learn to play baseball in the quad.
Vocabulary games help high school students from China improve their English skills.

How do you teach America's pastime to a group of teens who have never even heard of the sport?

First, start with the basics: batters, pitchers, bases, strikes, outs and runs. Next, teach them a few rules and start playing. While a few days isn't enough time to create baseball stars, it is enough to develop an appreciation for the game.

The same is true with teaching the English language to foreign students. It's impossible to teach fluency and American culture in a week, but it's the perfect amount of time for a taste.

“It's just enough to get excited, to get a taste of English,” says Randy Burger, director of the Cal Poly English Language Institute (CPELI).

This summer, CPELI plays host to about 900 middle and high school students from China, Taiwan and Korea who are attending mini summer sessions, from two to five days long. Students stay at the residence halls, eat at Los Olivos Commons and learn English through games, songs, skits, discussions and writing.

Throughout the year, CPELI offers 10-week English courses for students preparing to enroll in an American university. During the summer, middle and high school students come to campus for mini sessions, usually as part of a larger educational tour of the United States, often visiting Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. In previous years, CEPLI hosted 400 students during summer quarter for its mini sessions.

This year, however, interest has ballooned with 900 students attending, most arriving in July. Burger attributes the increase to the booming economy in China, Asian parents who want their children to learn English and travel to another country, and Cal Poly Pomona's well-regarded reputation.

During a welcome address to students from Zhejiang Province in China, Burger told the group of 24 middle schoolers they will be college students for the next two days.

“College students work very hard, they study very hard and they take many tests,” Burger joked. “We're going to have fun. We want you to learn about us and our country.”

For more information about the English Language Institute, visit