The Art of Conversation – In English
ESL Academy Conversation Partners Learning & Fun for International & American Students
Lively conversations – spoken completely in English – are taking place every week between American and international students from around the world through the Conversation Partners Program at the ESL Academy, University of Colorado Denver. The program offers lunchtime and after-class discussion sessions for international students to practice and improve their English language skills as they enjoy learning with fellow students.
Kelly Martlett, an international studies major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, grew up in Colorado and enjoys the wide variety of ways that CU Denver serves as a global crossroads that provides opportunities for students to learn about other countries and cultures. Prior to becoming an ESL Academy Conversation Partner, Martlett studied abroad in Morocco and Spain through the Office of Global Education: Study Abroad. As a Conversation Partner, he continues to expand his knowledge base and global perspective while studying in Denver as he helps international students to excel in university classrooms.
Every Wednesday afternoon, two ESL Academy international students meet with Martlett to develop their English language proficiency. Marwa Al-Ethafa, an Iraqi student who is hoping to earn a master’s in civil engineering in the College of Engineering and Applied Science, explained how she is able to develop listening and speaking skills through the program.
“I needed to practice listening because I was having problems when I talked with anybody,” said Al-Ethafa. “I feel comfortable when I talk with Kelly, and would like to continue seeing a conversation partner to improve my listening skills.”
Fellow student Gloria Esperanta hails from Colombia; she has a degree in Business and a master’s in marketing from her country.
Esperanta commented, “I take advantage of the conversation partner program for practicing listening and speaking in English, and for comprehension. I have gained more fluency in conversations, and I have lost the fear of speaking and of being wrong.”
Martlett explained the value of the ESL Academy Conversation Partner Program and provided advice for other students who are interested in becoming a part of the program:
– What inspired you to become an ESL Academy Conversation Partner?
To converse with international students; being an international studies major, I enjoy being around diversity and people from all over the world. I studied abroad in the past and always wished to keep a connection with different cultures and people, being a conversation partner grants me that wish to stay close to the world.
– What is your role – how do you help international students to develop their English language skills?
My role is to stimulate conversation in trying to improve the students’ English skills—to keep them speaking English. I try to keep the discussion informal enough for the student to feel comfortable about talking about whatever they like.
– What types of subjects do you discuss with the students?
I start by getting to know them; I always pull up Google Earth on my I-pad to find out where they are from and ask questions about their home and their lifestyle there. There are times when I try to cater to their specific needs, which entails focusing on terminology that the student is practicing English for, whether for a job or a specific topic of interest to them.
– Do you need special training to become a Conversation Partner for the ESL Academy?
No, I believe the most important characteristic is to show an interest and enthusiasm in speaking with people from different cultures and backgrounds.
– Through your discussions with international students, what have you enjoyed learning about their countries and communities?
I enjoy hearing about where they are from, the places they grew up and visited. Also, it is enjoyable hearing of the activities they like to participate in.
– What are some of your favorite things about the CU Denver ESL Academy?
The location, being downtown is a fun place to be at, and when you enter the Academy the writable wall always having something fun written on them to comment on.
– What advice would you give to other CU Denver students who are considering applying to be Conversation Partners? What steps should they take?
I recommend visiting the Academy to see the environment and feel the energy that exists in that building. Then, while you are there inquire about becoming a conversation partner from one of the excellent coordinators who work there.