Georgetown’s English Language Center: 1960 to Today
One of the oldest language programs in the United States, the intensive English language program at Georgetown University began in the early 1950s as part of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. Over nearly six decades, our dedicated faculty and staff have offered dynamic and innovative courses to engage students with a wide range of language backgrounds and learning styles.
Now located at the School of Continuing Studies in downtown Washington, D.C., The English Language Center wouldn’t be the institution it is today without the contributions of many throughout our history. Here are some of the milestones in the life of a program that has epitomized Georgetown’s Jesuit values of service to the community, the nation, and the world.
Founding of the Center
In 1960, the intensive English program was officially named the Division of English as a Foreign Language (DEFL) and became part of the newly established School of Languages and Linguistics (SLL). Robert Lado, Ph.D., a respected professor in the field of Applied Linguistics, was appointed dean of the School of Languages and Linguistics in 1961. His vision for the School included a commitment to the field of teaching English as a foreign language, or second language (TESL).
In 1961, under Dr. Lado’s leadership, the School brought a new department to Georgetown, the American Language Institute (ALI), which had been in existence since 1942 through support from the National Education Association. ALI was well known domestically and abroad for its English language publications and testing materials for the federal government.
While at Georgetown, the American Language Institute was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Unlike the traditional semester-long intensive English courses being offered through DEFL, ALI’s programs concentrated on the specific needs of students in highly specialized fields. As such, ALI students not only strengthened their academic English, they also gained intercultural competence and made long-lasting friendships.
Programs for English Teachers
The American Language Institute was also a significant player in the field of teacher training. In addition to short-term programs and workshops for foreign and domestic English teachers, the ALI provided an advisory voice in the field of TESL, inviting government personnel to attend ALI for briefings, classroom observations, and extended internships. In 1967, ALI established a joint institute with the National Department of Education for District of Columbia public school administrators. It was the first program in the country to use English as a Second Language (ESL) methodology for educationally disadvantaged students in urban public schools.
Many Names, a Constant Mission
In 1991, Georgetown brought all of the English language programs on campus under one unified center. This unit, known as the Center for Language Education and Development (CLED), combined the Division of English as a Foreign Language and the American Language Institute. The intensive English courses offered by both departments merged to become the CLED English as a Foreign Language (EFL) program, which continues to serve foreign students preparing to study at U.S. universities.
Five years after this consolidation, ALI’s contract with USAID ended and it was renamed CLED Special Programs to reflect its work outside the USAID contract. Since then, the division has continued to offer flexible custom programs for groups of specialized students and maintained critical governmental contract programs, notably the English for Heritage Language Speakers (EHLS) program with the Center of Applied Linguistics and the National Security Education Program.
These two divisions of CLED operated separately for decades until 2017, when they were brought together into the School of Continuing Studies in downtown Washington. In addition to the physical move, CLED was renamed the English Language Center (ELC), with the goal of continuing to deliver world-class English language and training programs in the heart of the nation’s capital. Although our name has changed over the years, the core of the ELC’s mission to support a global community through the academic excellence and relationships fostered in our English programs has not.