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Intercultural Communication Center Language Training
In addition to providing specific language techniques and cultural information, ICC classes provide an opportunity for language practice and feedback (crucial to the development of a second language). As such, our workshops and seminars function much like "studio classes" or "labs", so many students have found it useful to attend sessions multiple times.

The following link provides guidelines to help students better understand what is expected of participants in ICC workshops and seminars.
"Focus on" Series

Warner Hall 308
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh PA 15213-3890
Office: (412) 268-4979


Classes are offered as 7-week credit mini-courses, and meet twice a week, one and a half hours per session

Language and Culture for Teaching, 99-452, 3 units 
helps nonnative English speakers begin to develop the skills needed to be successful as teaching assistants (TAs). Students will gain a better understanding of the US/ Carnegie Mellon classroom and culturally appropriate teaching techniques, and be better prepared to take on the role of "instructor". Students will also learn how to better communicate their knowledge and expertise to learners by: 1) working on aspects of pronunciation crucial for the classroom, 2) developing an awareness of key aspects of teaching fluency, 3) having frequent opportunities to practice building aspects of teaching fluency, and 4) learning to compensate effectively for their individual language problems. Each student will have the opportunity to give two videotaped presentations on topics from their fields and then to meet with the instructor for extensive feedback and coaching.

Registration is handled through the ICC, not through the HUB.



Workshops typically meet twice a week, one and a half hours per session, in two to five week modules.

Advanced Fluency Challenges  focuses on building the robust academic fluency needed to handle the demands students face at Carnegie Mellon. In this workshop, students will practice building this fluency through regular, focused speaking activities. In addition, students will also learn valuable communication strategies that will help them compensate for language gaps they may have in their current speaking skills. (5 weeks, 15 hours total)

Advanced Grammar Monitoring  helps students who are comfortable in academic English, but who are still making a significant number of grammar mistakes while speaking. The class focuses on expanding the students' knowledge and understanding of spoken English grammar usage, on the kinds of errors ICC students typically make, and on learning to "monitor" (identify and correct) grammar errors while speaking. (3 weeks, 9 hours total)

Presentation Basics  helps graduate students who are nonnative English speakers develop the fluency and skills needed to give successful presentations at Carnegie Mellon. The workshop covers audience awareness, organizing language and presentation techniques, and the importance of stress and intonation in presenting. There is ample time for practice and feedback, both in a series of small group mini-talks, and in a final videotaped presentation. At the end of the workshop, students meet individually with the instructor for extensive feedback and coaching. (5 weeks, 15 hours total)

Public Speaking Practicum  allows students to practice giving short presentations about their fields and to receive feedback on language and communication style. This workshop is intended as a follow up for students who attended Presentation Basics or LCT, and who want continued presentation practice. (4 weeks, 6 hours total)

Speaking and Listening  is intended for students who have had limited experience with spoken academic English. The workshop helps students begin to develop the fluency to express their ideas and questions in classes, improve basic listening comprehension and note-taking, and better understand the Carnegie Mellon classroom. More importantly, students will gain a clearer understanding of the robust fluency they will need to develop for success at Carnegie Mellon and have a stronger language foundation so that they can benefit from other ICC support services. (4 weeks, 12 hours total)



Seminars are one-time sessions that meet for two hours.

Becoming a Better Language Learner  highlights second language theories and techniques which students can use to become more effective language learners, both in ICC classes and in their daily interactions.

Communicating Data Effectively  addresses challenges NNES face when discussing graphs/figures in academic papers and presentations. To communicate more effectively, students learn and practice a clear organizing structure, useful language, and strategies for using data in papers or presentations.

Communication Issues for Speakers of Other Varieties of English  (offered only in August) is intended for students who have used English for much or all of their academic lives (e.g., India, Singapore) but who still may encounter communication difficulties in the US. This seminar helps students recognize and deal effectively with potential problem areas.

Crafting a Professional Identity: Biostatements  Graduate students need to create biostatements for a variety of academic and professional situations. This is challenging for everyone, but non-native speakers have the additional challenge of navigating the unwritten cultural expectations. By discussing the conventions that influence biostatements, students are better able to make choices that enhance their professional portrayal.

Drama Techniques for Academic Presentations  provides theater techniques that can help presenters and ITAs more clearly communicate their message by engaging the audience and highlighting key ideas. This is offered as a three-part series of seminars that includes:

  • Improving Spoken Delivery focuses on improving pronunciation, emphatic stress, and organizing patterns for using metaphors;

  • Developing Non-verbal Communication focuses on improving focused eye contact, improving pacing, and reducing stage fright;

  • Improving through Improvisation focuses on developing active listening strategies and developing stronger fluency for handling unexpected situations.

Email for Academic Purposes  addresses common problems that nonnative English speakers face when communicating by email with faculty, colleagues and other students. In this seminar, students will identify and practice strategies for effectively organizing information and communicating politely in academic emails.

Exploring Pittsburgh  provides a basis to understand references, examples and analogies that students may encounter in their work at Carnegie Mellon.

Focused Listening  trains students to use authentic materials (video or lectures) to develop both their own academic fluency and their ability to understand implied as well as literal meaning.

Foundations of Fluency for ITAs (required for students who place into Restricted I or II on the ITA test before they can work as teaching assistants)  is a 3-hour seminar that helps international TAs recognize and begin to develop some of the fundamental language and teaching skills needed to be successful as TAs. Participants will become aware of key aspects of robust teaching fluency, work on aspects of pronunciation, look at communication techniques needed to interact with students, and learn about other ICC resources to improve fluency and cultural understanding, both for success as a TA and for professional success. Students wil register for this session during ITA test feedback.

ITA Test Overview: What you need to know before taking the ITA test  covers a number of topics including: the history of the test, the test format, the skills rated and the rubric used to evaluate these skills, and strategies that students can use to best demonstrate their fluency. In addition, students will get to observe several samples from actual ITA tests and then get the chance to try out their skills as a test rater.

Job Interviewing for International Applicants: a glimpse into language and cultural issues  helps students better understand the expectations for job interviews in the US and be more prepared to take advantage of the career development support available on campus.

The Multicultural Classroom  examines some of the differences in communication style and attitudes to learning that students will encounter in a multi-cultural campus such as Carnegie Mellon. Through the use of a video case study, students will experience and discuss key issues in cross-cultural communication, identify potential problem areas, and develop strategies for dealing successfully with those issues.

Paraphrasing Properly & Avoiding Plagiarism  Nonnative English speakers may unintentionally plagiarize for two main reasons: 1) they may not completely understand what plagiarism means in US universities, and 2) they may lack the language and skills to paraphrase another author's work properly. This seminar will help students deal with these issues.

Participating in the US Classroom  addresses the common factors (e.g., cultural differences, interaction style and assumptions about learning) that often hinder international students' ability to interact sufficiently in the Carnegie Mellon classroom. Participants will learn how to more effectively demonstrate their knowledge in classes, discussion groups and seminars.

Preparing for Oral Qualifiers and Defenses  helps students develop the language and cultural skills for effective interaction with examiners during an oral qualifier, defense, or exam. Specifically, this seminar reviews strategies to help students display greater confidence, demonstrate professionalism, and handle difficult questions effectively.

Principles of Academic Writing  offers an overview of the cultural variations in academic writing that often cause problems for international students. This seminar also helps students become better writers in their fields by teaching them to recognize, and eventually implement, various principles of successful academic writing (e.g. audience, purpose, organization, style, flow).

Pronunciation for Effective Presentations  introduces the crucial features of pronunciation (e.g., stress, intonation, speed and rhythm) that can make students more comprehensible when presenting or teaching in English. This seminar is fairly fast paced, so may not be appropriate for students still working on basic fluency.

Requesting and Refusing  Even highly fluent speakers of a second language are often challenged and surprised by the rules (often unwritten) for interacting in that language. Misunderstandings can occur when second language speakers do not fully understand how to initiate or respond in certain situations. This seminar provides helpful language and strategies to deal with two crucial, and often difficult, situations for international graduate students: requesting and refusing when dealing with advisors and university offices.

Revising for Clarity  helps students improve the clarity of their writing by practicing how to structure sentences and paragraphs in a way that is consistent with the US academic style. Through examples and practice, students will learn how to compose their writing so that readers will interpret ideas as the writer intended.

"Talking the Talk"  is a series of four seminars which focus on the language and cultural strategies NNES need to expand their ability to talk about themselves and their work as professionals in the US context (e.g., in job interviews, conferences, talking with clients and funders, departmental receptions, etc.). Each seminar practices a different aspect of this skill set; students will be better prepared to demonstrate their professional expertise. (Students can take seminars in any order.)

  • Elevator Talk raises awareness of the US expectation that academics simplify their language when discussing their fields with a broad audience. Students learn techniques to simplify complex material, and practice these techniques in small group exercises.

  • PhD Talk helps participants develop a concise and accurate overview of their own research projects, as well as adapt concepts and jargon from their field for a general academic audience. Because this seminar requires learners to talk about their own research, it is intended for PhD students who have proposed or are actively pursuing independent research; participants must have research experience.

  • Professional Talk (formerly Hallway Talk) focuses on how to better tell your "professional story": e.g., professional strengths, motivations to study a specific field, how students picture their future careers, what or who influences their work. Students will better understand the importance of tailoring their professional stories to the varied audiences that a successful graduate student communicates with (learners, recruiters, funders, other academics, professional contacts) and develop the language and cross-cultural skills to do so more successfully.

  • Small Talk focuses on the underlying significance of social conversation and its culturally appropriate use in academic and professional situations (a challenge for many international students).

Three Keys for Better Presentations  helps students quickly improve the quality of their presentations and feel more confident as presenters by focusing on three key areas: audience, purpose and organization. Participants plan and then present on academic topics of their choice.

Using Articles Accurately  provides rules, strategies, and practice to help second language learners use articles (a/an, the, no article) correctly. Accurate use of articles is important for making your academic communication clear and professional.

Writing Academic Summaries  teaches students how to successfully write the various types of summaries that are required in many CM classes (reports, reviews, critiques, exams, etc.). Activities focus on identifying the key points in texts and summarizing these points in an accurate and concise way. Students will practice using their own words to condense material from outside sources.

Writing Successful Critiques  addresses common challenges that international students face when writing an evaluation or an analysis of another author's work. In this seminar, students will review and practice with the organizing structure and language typically used for critiques in the US academy.


  "Focus on" Series

"Focus on" classes are 90-minute drop-in sessions; advance registration is not required and you can come as often as you like. However, mastering a second language takes commitment and regular practice over time, so we encourage students to come to every session if possible.

Focus on Grammar  is designed for nonnative English speaking students to review areas of English grammar that are often problematic. Through a series of ongoing weekly sessions, students can improve their understanding of English grammar and the way it is used in academic discourse, both spoken and written.

Focus on Pronunciation  is designed to help you improve your pronunciation skiils through a series of ongoing weekly practice sessions. By attending these informal and interactive sessions on a regular basis, you can improve your overall pronunciation so that you will be able to communicate more effectively as a student, as a TA, and eventually as a professional in your field.