San Francisco State University – American Language Institute

The American Language Institute (ALI) at San Francisco State University has been in operation since 1961. Its coursework emphasizes university preparation and hinges on the expertise of its teachers – all of whom have earned (or are earning) master’s degrees in teaching English to foreign speakers.

The ALI’s central location on campus ensures an authentic university experience from the outset. Enrollees have access to student advisors, and the ALI faculty plan outings and events in San Francisco. This institute presents Asian students with a one-of-a-kind opportunity to improve their English language skills in the heart of an iconic American city.


Pic: ALI graduates, summer 2013.

ALI curriculum

The curriculum at the ALI is intensive and focused on the academic skills needed to thrive in a university environment. Each week, students complete 22 hours of class time from Monday to Thursday, with Friday’s left open for outings or intensive TOEFL classes. With this in mind, the program is intended for serious and mature students ready to put in the time and energy to succeed. Admittance is competitive, and it’s wise to apply as early as possible.

The ALI is certified by the Educational testing Service, which means it is qualified to offer Institutional TOEFL instruction. Tests are held twice – once at the beginning of the course and again at the end. Scores from these TOEFL exams allow students to measure their progress over the semester, and can also be used for admittance to SF State programs.

Student experience

The English program takes a holistic approach to language improvement. It is designed to help students become active and confident English users across all fronts – reading, writing, listening and speaking. Perhaps most importantly, the curriculum takes a learn-by-doing approach. Furthermore, the institute assigns an advisor to each student. This expert goes above and beyond to help students apply to the university of their choosing.


Pic: ALI students visit the sea lions at the Fisherman's Wharf marina.

This makes for lively and engaging coursework, but it’s only the beginning. The ALI activities coordinators plan weekly outings into the San Francisco Bay area. You’ll see the major sights – like the iconic Golden Gate Bridge – and discover a few hidden gems along the way. Of course, every off-campus encounter provides the opportunity to practice and polish your English skills.

Students have several housing options. They can live on campus in a university dormitory, with off-campus housing also available. In the latter case, they may choose to live alone or with roommates.


Connect with the ALI on Facebook to learn more about its programs, activities and application deadlines.