English Conversation Partner Information Sheet
One of the most felt needs of an international student is to practice speaking English with a native speaker. This is a wonderful opportunity to serve a student in an area of felt need and to develop a friendship with someone from another culture.
When will I be needed?
ALWAYS! The largest number of volunteers will be needed at the beginning of the fall semester. However, students request conversation partners throughout the year. Usually we have a waiting list of students and spouses desiring American conversation partners, so in most cases you can be matched quickly at any time of the year. Our ESL classes close mid-May to mid-August. From May to August is a great time to befriend an international! At the end of February, 28 international men and women indicated a desire to have a Conversation Partner.
How will I be matched with a student?
After training and application approval, you will be contacted with the name and email address of a student who has requested a conversation partner. You should contact the student and set up a time and place to meet that is mutually agreeable. Note that it is our practice to match you with a student or international spouse of the same sex. We also try our best to match you with someone of the same age and interests, although this is not always possible. If you have a preference for any specific culture you may indicate that at the time of your application and we will do our best to honor your request. Most of our students are Asian.
What if I am unable to contact the student I have been assigned?
Please remember that you are the host to a guest in our country and realize that it can be very intimidating for an international student to make the first contact, especially using a second language. Please do not give up after one attempt. Try the student several times and call them if your emails are not answered. If after these attempts you are still unsuccessful, please contact The International Link office (706-760-4152) so that we can either facilitate the contact or rematch you with another student.
How long is the commitment?
You will be matched with a student for one semester (four months). Our hope is that a good friendship would be established and that you would like to continue meeting with the student. However, both you or the student may chose not to renew the commitment or you may choose to meet less often.
What kind of time commitment is expected?
We ask that you meet with the student at least one hour per week or a few hours every couple of weeks. Or perhaps spending a half-day with each other once a month works best. If you don't meet each week, try to send the student an email just to see how he or she is doing.
Do the students speak English?
Yes, at least to some degree. The are taking classes or working or doing research in the Augusta area. Most are students at Augusta University, others are spouses of students or parents of researchers visiting long term to care for grandchildren. They mainly want help practicing their conversation skills with a native speaker and for someone to gently correct both their grammar and pronunciation.
How will I know what to do with someone learning English and coming from another culture?
At your training event, we will give you a 16-week handbook that gives great ideas on helping with English and great activities for building a relationship. The training also includes a lot of instruction and access to key materials.
Do I, as a volunteer, have to speak the student's language?
No. Because they want to improve their ability to speak English, it is not necessary for you to know their language.
Is there any curriculum?
Yes and no. You will receive a "conversation partner" handbook with 16 sessions planned. If the student is enrolled in an English as a Second Language program, there is a curriculum used in their classes. You may help them with this as needed, or you may choose to just use natural conversation. The International Link offers ESL classes at times during the year, and you are welcome to attend the classes with them, but this is NOT a replacement for meeting them one-on-one at another time. Accompanying them to class is an optional extra.
For all students, natural conversation is encouraged. An information sheet with possible conversation topics is available. Create you own opportunities: go out for ice cream or coffee, look at photo albums and share stories about your families and life experiences, go to a park for a walk, etc. This is a friendship as well as conversation practice so feel free to have fun! If you need some further suggestions, give us a call. For ideas about activities and conversation topics, ask us to share resources with you.
What about sharing my faith?
Your commitment to the student should be that of unconditional friendship and love. Please be sensitive to the fact that students come from many different cultural and religious backgrounds and may have little or no previous exposure to Christianity. Hopefully over time you will build a relationship of trust which would be an appropriate context for sharing spiritually. We ask that you not force spiritual discussion but be sensitive to the student and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. In many cases, the students are very open to such discussions. It is appropriate to naturally include your faith as it relates to your life experiences.
What if I am unable to meet with the student I have been assigned?
Please contact The International Link office to let us know you will not be able to continue. Our desire is to serve the students in the best way possible. If you are unable to continue meeting your student, we would like to be able to match them with someone else so that they may still have the opportunity to meet with an American volunteer.
Can I be matched with another student if mine leaves Augusta?
Definitely yes! We hope that you have such a wonderful experience that you will want to continue with another conversation partner. Since we almost always have a waiting list, we should be able to match you again right away.
The International Link, P.O. Box 211011, Augusta, GA 30917; google phone 706-760-4152.