Conversation Partners seminar eases students into English speaking

Learning a new language is never an easy task, but for some international students at the university, a seminar offered by the Intensive English Program makes learning English a little less strenuous.

Conversation Partners, which is offered every Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Rickel Academic Wing, pairs international students with native English-speaking students, faculty members and Fort Worth residents.

Barbara Alvarez, an instructional staff member in the IEP, started Conversation Partners in 2003. Alvarez said she uses community outreach through TCU Announce and word-of-mouth to get participants to hold conversations with the international students.

Alvarez said that her experience as the leader of the program has been very rewarding.

“It’s just been wonderful to see members of the Fort Worth community as well as the TCU community so willing to come give their time just to interact with the international students, and it really helps them in learning more about American culture and people and improving their speaking conversation skills,” she said.

Conversation Partners usually has about 12-15 international students at each meeting along with six native English speakers, Alvarez said.

She said the international students in the program come from diverse locations such as South Korea, Saudi Arabia and the Ivory Coast.

One international student, Bo Mi Kwak, said she plans to use Conversation Partners as a way to improve her English so she can get a job in business in the future.

Kwak, a first-year business major, said she liked that the discussion was not like a regular college class.

“I think this class is better than a grammar class or another writing class,” Kwak said.

The native English speakers come from diverse backgrounds, as well. Some are permanent Fort Worth residents with ties to the TCU community, while others are current university students, Alvarez said.

Morgan John, a first-year anthropology major, said she enjoyed learning about other cultures through the conversations she has with the international students.

“Being an anthropology major, it interested me to talk with people of different languages and different cultures,” John said. “I even learned ‘How are you?’ in French.”

To participate in Conversation Partners, contact Alvarez at [email protected].