New program helps international students speak fluent English

Students speaking while working on a class project

For Marietta College’s international students, learning to speak fluent English is important from an academic standpoint but it’s important for social reasons, too.

Organizers of the English Conversation Partner program say the more confident International students are in their ability to carry on casual conversations, the easier it will be for them to develop deeper relationships with American students.

The English Conversation Partner program is offered through the Communication Resource Center in Mills Hall. The goal is to offer a familiar, relaxed, neutral place for students to hold casual conversations on a wide variety of topics such as hobbies, music, traditions or anything of interest for the students.

“We’ve heard from students whose native language is not English that they don’t often have the opportunity to practice their conversation skills,” said Linda Lockhart, a Visiting Professor in Communication who will oversee the program next fall. “The fundamentals of conversation are important in anything you do.”

During the conversations, participants can practice specific areas of concern like eye contact, respecting personal space, use of slang and understanding the use of English words with double meanings.

Cooper Holmes ’21 (St. Marys, West Virginia), a Strategic Communication-Advertising & Public Relations major, serves as one the program’s communication assistants. The conversations he has with ESL students become more than just practice sessions.

“Personally, what I’ve gotten from the program is the opportunity to sit down with students from all backgrounds and have meaningful conversations with them,” Holmes said. “They may seem simple such as ‘What are your favorite hobbies?’ However, every moment spent talking and discussing allows the students not only to get more comfortable speaking English in general but shows that the many students and staff at Marietta College are here to help and care about each and every student.

“I would say that is the big reason why I help — getting the opportunity to create connections with individuals while also being able to help make their every-day communicating smoother is a truly unique opportunity.”

Dr. Alane Sanders, Associate Professor of Communication, advised the program over the past spring semester.

“These conversations are not tied to a grade, and the students aren’t talking to a person of authority,” she explained. “They learn the technical aspects of speaking English in class, but we offer a comfortable place to practice those techniques and learn the broader aspects of communication.”

The Communication Resource Center offers services for all students ranging from helping students organize and present information to helping students with making speeches and presentations.

In addition to its services, the CRC provides computers for researching and organizing speech information, video cameras for recording and viewing speech rehearsals, and a quiet space for writing speeches or studying.

Coordinators of the English Conversation Partner program hope their efforts will complement other programs on campus focused on integrating international students and helping them have their best experience at Marietta College.

Students can make an appointment online at www.marietta.edu/communication-resource-center.