This year, English Language Institute (ELI) students had the opportunity to bolster their conversation skills by enrolling in the Conversation Buddy program. Running from mid-July until early August, the Conversation Buddy course had Harker Upper School students facilitate small group discussions with the ELI students about various topics, including personal beliefs, moral quandaries and cultural differences.
“It is my hope that these discussions will help the ELI students find a belief they feel strongly about that they can then write about,” said Jennifer Abraham, global education director, who led the program from July 20 until its conclusion.
One Harker student helper, Sean Morgan, Gr. 12, said the program offered the opportunity for him to spend part of the summer doing something that helped others. “I thought it would be good to try to use my knowledge of the language to help people learn English,” he said. “The students are eager to learn.”
Fellow senior Mark Roh enjoyed the chance to meet some students from different cultures, calling the Conversation Buddy program “a good opportunity to meet some international students and help them learn English.”
Student helpers also found it interesting to hear about the ELI students’ perspectives on cultural differences. “I was interested in the different styles of teaching between Asia and here,” Morgan said. One student he spoke with noted that it was considered rude to ask someone lots of questions in the student’s home country, which had an effect on how students were taught.
Abraham said that in addition to helping students build their skills in using everyday English, the Conversation Buddy program can also provide a break from the rigorous academic environment of the ELI program, due to its emphasis on learning to speak naturally and comfortably.
“I think after a long day of really intense studying, it’s just nice to take a deep breath and relax a little bit,” she said.