BY CASSIE TULECKI
The English Conversation Partner (ECP) program offered on campus is providing fluent English-speaking students with the chance to talk to English as an Additional Language (EAL) students in order to create friendships as well improve EAL students’ English.
“This is a beneficial partnership for both individuals, as both the EAL student and the fluent English-speaking student are able to have the opportunity to increase their cultural awareness, connect with someone new and improve interpersonal and communication skills,” said Janina Robinson, Student Life Programmer – Leadership Initiatives.
EAL students participate in this program to help improve their English as well as become more confident and comfortable while attending college.
Both EAL students and fluent English-speaking students who are interested in the program can go to Student Life located in Room 2A101-2 to sign up. EAL students can fill out an application form at Student Life or on Student Life’s website.
After speaking to someone in Student Life, students then go in for an interview for 15-20 minutes. The meeting provides more details of what the ECP program is, as well as gives Student Life a chance to get to know the students so they can find a partner who would be well suited to them.
“Students are not randomly matched, rather, we try our best to match students with another student who we feel would make a great partner,” Robinson said.
Volunteers are then asked to attend an hour-long training session at the beginning of their involvement in the program. Volunteers are also asked to meet with their partner a minimum of six times per semester.
“We have had some great feedback from both volunteers as well as EAL students about the great relationships that have been formed through the ECP program,” she said.
Students can stay involved with the same partner throughout the year, although a year commitment isn’t required. They can also choose to volunteer for just one semester. This applies to EAL students as well.
Conversation Circles are also being offered this year by part-time Student Life staff members. EAL students who have already attended the initial interview appointment are welcome to attend. It is a group session that is focused on providing the chance to practise English as part of a group.
“Not only do we see that language ability and confidence increases for the EAL student, but both partners often feel as though a friendship has been formed. For volunteers, a deeper understanding of their partner’s culture and life experience provides a great learning opportunity,” Robinson said.