Conversation Partner Program
Conversation Partners is a program in which international and U.S. students meet every week for up to two hours to socialize. This is a great opportunity to learn about each other’s cultures and make new friends. In addition, our international students get the chance to practice their English as well.
The conversation partners determine the time and location of their meetings. Students are expected to meet in public places (anywhere on campus or in Moscow), visit cultural events (concerts, plays, exhibitions), go to a sports game, go shopping, etc. See the link with suggestions for other activities below. Participants may receive community service credit by keeping track of their hours through the ASUI Volunteer Programs.
- Go to a coffee shop together
- Play Frisbee
- Visit the U of I arboretum
- Go hiking or for a walk
- Enjoy the art gallery on campus
- Go out for ice cream
- See the historical McConnell Mansion Museum downtown
- Visit the Apaloosa Museum
- Cook together
- Participate in planned conversation partner activities
- Try rock climbing at the Student Recreation Center
- Go bowling in Pullman
- Simple, active and present verb tense
- Talk slowly and clearly, repeat, use synonyms
- Use as many examples and models as possible
- Normal volume
- Use gestures and facial expressions
- Avoid use of slang and idioms
- Paraphrasing words, phrases, or sentences
- Nonverbal cues (for example: pointing at words, visuals, or pantomiming)
- Correction by restating or modeling
Compiled by Barbara Gottschalk (1995), ESL Instructor. Youngstown State University.
- Be patient. Try to imagine yourself in their country as a student.
- Be sensitive to their cultural perspectives (including cultural thought patterns).
- Explain the cultural expectations of American higher education.
- Help them to know how to use the library and computer lab.
- Give lots of speaking practice.
- Speak clearly, naturally and avoid using lots of slang.
- Ask students to repeat what you have just said to show understanding.
- If a student has trouble understanding you, write down what you are saying. If you have trouble understanding the student, ask him or her to write down what he/she is saying.
- Use lots of repetition.
- Encourage students to make friends outside of class because this will improve their English.
- Write down words the student does not know.
- Admit it if there is a communication problem: “I don’t understand.”
- Don’t categorize students. ESL students come from a large variety of backgrounds.
- Don’t treat students like children. English language proficiency does not indicate intelligence or ability level.
- Don’t make snap judgments about someone’s English skills based only on speaking ability.
- Don’t be too serious. Make some “small talk” and try to use new vocabulary in a context the students are familiar with.
- Don’t assume cultural or background knowledge.
- Don’t just explain something. Use examples instead.
- Don’t act as if you understand the student if you don’t.
Adapted from: Barbara Gottchalk, ESL Instructor & her students, Youngstown State University, 1995.
Lewin, Ellen, Tutoring Tips for ESL Tutoring. Learning Assistance Center, Minnesota Community College; Minneapolis, MN.