YALI: the Only One Owned and Run by the US Government [Archives:2000/06/Culture]

February 7 2000

YALI was started in 1975 and has been affiliated with several different organizations since its inception, including US universities, the US Agency for International Development, the US Peace Corps, and the US Information Service. YALI is currently an arm of the Public Diplomacy branch of the US state Department and one of eleven direct English-teaching programs in the world. Through the 25 years of our working here we have never been closed even during the civil war.
YALI’s mission as a direct English-teaching program is to provide English language instruction to influential Yemenis whose use of English will most directly benefit the bilateral relationship. In addition, YALI provides instruction to a large number of Yemeni officials and government employees nominated by the Ministry of Planning and Development.
YALI’s facilities include the main office, director’s office, academic coordinator’s office, registrar’s office, accountant’s office, testing office, staff reading room, teachers’ lounge, video theater, multimedia computer lab, library, diwan, various classrooms and Caf YALI.
The other thing we are hoping to have this year is to have a self- access center for students where regular students can go on their free time when not studying in class and practice their English without an instructor. To have self-access means that students themselves can access materials, access English on their own without a teacher. This does not mean that technology can replace teachers but it can help students at times when teachers are not around.
We have a number of different nationalities teaching in the institute: Americans, British, one Irish teacher, a Filipino teacher, a number of Yemenis, and another one from Sudan. When choosing teachers to teach in the Institute we focus on those who are energetic, lively, of course their English must be good, as close as possible to a native speaker. Most of our Yemeni teachers have a masters degree, some of them have their masters degree from the UK or US. They are professionals and the best teachers in the Republic.
Although the enrollment at YALI may vary depending upon the season, it is usually between 750 and 900. Each term lasts for five weeks, with the week between terms used to conduct registration. The average class size is about 14, though individual classes may range from 8-24, depending upon level and time.
YALI is dedicated to teaching students to communicate in English, so the focus is on listening and speaking, with a lesser emphasis on reading and writing. Courses are divided into Regular, Advanced and Intensive. Regular courses consist of 8 levels, with each having an “A” and “B” section of fifty hours per term. An intensive course is both the “A” and “B” sections in a single term and is only available upon request. When it is offered, an intensive course is taught by two instructors, each teaching two hours per day. The eight levels of regular courses are: Access, Basic, and levels 1-6. Both access “A” and “B” use YALI-designed textbooks, designed with the best possible materials gathered from a variety of sources. Basic “A” and “B” use the Interchange Into text, an American English course published by Cambridge University Press (CUP). Levels 1-3 use the New Interchange series, while level 4 and 5 will use Passages, also from CUP. Level 6, which currently uses Spectrum, is under review and will change late in the year 2000. We are changing our programs a little bit as we are trying to phase in new books, changes and innovations in technology. In addition, the YALI Computer Lab is required of all courses here, with the number of hours per term dependent upon the level of the class. I can confidently say that the books we are using “interchange” are the best books and are state of the art in all over the world not just for Yemenis but for any student who wants to learn to communicate in English. About 99% of our students come here to learn to communicate.
Advanced courses are offered only to students who have completed levels 4 or 5, or to those who place at these levels on our placement test. At present, YALI offers courses in TOEFL preparation, advanced conversation, advanced writing, advanced grammar, advanced listening, pronunciation, translation, American culture and short stories. Other courses may be developed in the future, particularly those involving English for Specific Purposes.
There are so many language institutes that have “American language Institute” as part of their names, however, for this is the only one YALI that is run and is owned by the US government. All the other ones – I won’t mention any names – have nothing to do with the American government. Besides, all the workers working here are connected with the American government. So that makes us the only American school in Yemen.
Regarding the role played by the other language institutes I think that for some people these institutes are more appropriate for we are more expensive than most of them. There are some of these institutes which are OK. However, I am confident to say that there is not any one of them which is as good as YALI. Of course, there is a wide range of quality and this is true not only in Yemen but in so many parts of the world.
Some of the other activities which we are looking at is the possibility of an English teaching conference and we will have an announcement about this. We are planning to have a number of English teaching professionals coming to Yemen from a number of countries to improve the quality of English teaching. We are always willing to help any organization that seeks improve the quality of improving English in terms of arranging seminars and workshops.
An interest in place is that from my experience in teaching in different parts of Asia students used to be very quite and a little bit shy in some cases. That is difficult when you are trying to get them speak because your whole job as a teacher is to convince them to talk. However, we do not have this problem here. We have male and female classes and all students are willing to talk. The only difficulty we face sometimes is to get students stop talking in English. So this is the kind of the opposite problem I had in Asia.
Students who got top scores in their courses provided that they have been at YALI from level 2 through level 6 and they have paid for themselves, they are going to be granted a free course which we have started last year. Unfortunately, we do not have funds to grant students scholarships to America. However, there are a number of students who have been to America after finishing their courses in YALI but scholarships have come from different organizations. Besides, since the time we have started working here we have never provided scholarships.
The government of Yemen is cooperating with us and we want to see more and more cooperation. Right now we are working with the Ministry of development and planing. Last year YALI contributed over 70,000 as an aid by sponsoring their students studying at very reduced costs. YALI receives no funds from the US government which makes itself a self-sported institution. The whole and sole income is from students.
There are several obstacles we face on basis of business for we are always trying to find ways of reducing our costs so that we do not have to charge students more for tuition. I promised students this year not to raise tuition fees in the year 2000, therefore, my job this year is to try to make sure that over expenses decrease so that we do not have to raise tuition. We have done pretty good job in reducing our costs last year.
We have a web site in the internet (www.yali.org.ye) through which we can be reached and contacted. “I almost receive an e-mail every day from teachers who want to teach here, students who want to study, people contacting me asking me to get some information about Yemen.” the director of the Institute said.