Students pair up to improve language skills

Seton Hall’s Language Resource department is successfully running a co-curricular program, entitled “Conversation Partners,” designed to aid non-native speakers in learning as well as conversing in their languages.

“Conversation Partners” caters to the needs of the students by pairing non-native speakers with native speakers to converse in the languages of their choice. Dr. Lopez-Cortina, the advisor to “Conversation Partners,” suggested the idea after having spent time in Europe.

“Some years ago I spent two semesters studying at the University of Bochum, Germany, where their seminar for the teaching of foreign languages had developed a very successful language exchange program,” Lopez-Cortina said. “We adapted some of their ideas.”

After running the program last year, surveys were electronically distributed to students involved in the program in order to determine its success.

“Basic logistical questions were asked. We established that people met with their partners and had felt like they had improved in their comprehension, speaking and in class skills,” Wendy Williams, the director of the Language Resource department, said.

Williams also stated that most students “improved in one out of the three areas.”

“As the program grows, I expect to be able to do some research on different aspects of the program in order to evaluate its effectiveness and improve it as necessary,” Lopez-Cortina said.

The program has had a positive effect on many of the students who participated.

“The program is not large enough yet to have an impact in the language programs overall, but some individual students are very satisfied with their improvement,” Lopez-Cortina said.

Participants anonymously write about their experience with “Conversation Partners” in surveys that are distributed after the program ends.

“I really liked this program,” stated a survey response, provided by Williams. “I´m au pair and working time is kind of irregular, but it´s not a class so we can reschedule easily if we can´t make it on meeting day. It was good opportunity for me.”

Naomi Placid, a freshman, recently signed up for “Conversation Partners” in an attempt to better her language skills both in and out of the classroom.

“I felt as though it would help me in my French class, and I thought it would help me improve in Spanish,” Placid said. “I also think it’s a good way to meet new people.”

Dr. Lopez -Cortina said he believes the program has been so successful because of the demand for additional language practice amongst advanced language students. According to Lopez-Cortina, there are many students at Seton Hall who are proficient in more than one language.

“The interest and the resources were there, and we are providing a way for those students to help each other,” Lopez-Cortina said.

After the notable reactions it received in its first year, the program is back and looking for prospective students.

“We are always looking for ways to facilitate language learning and getting more students involved,” Lopez-Cortina said.

Students can e-mail Wendy Williams in order to be paired with a student. Pairs are then decided by Williams in an efficient and organized manner.

“Everyone signs up, and they are then matched and asked to meet here in my office,” said Williams.

Ashley Duvall can be reached at ashley.duvall@student.shu.edu.

Author: Staff Writer

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