Conversations create community in English practice program

English Together, a conversational English practice program, brings together students, scholars and community members for informal chats on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons led by volunteer conversation leaders. Jenna Haffner, international student engagement coordinator for the international students and scholars office (ISSO), said the program strives to help participants feel more confident in their communication skills and forge connections with peers.

"Practicing conversational English is important because communication is one of the first steps to building community," said Haffner. "ISSO wants to make sure students, scholars, dependents and community members feel welcome in the U.S. and at Iowa State."

English Together

Volunteers needed

English Together sessions will begin in mid-September, and ISSO is looking for conversation leaders to host weekly drop-in sessions. Though many of the conversation leaders are students, Haffner said faculty and staff can be leaders as well. Experience working with students is not required.

"Interested conversation leaders participate in a training session before English Together sessions start so they can familiarize themselves with the program and receive guidance from ISSO," Haffner said. "Conversation leaders also can pair up and work together."

From talking about classes to answering questions about common English phrases -- think "break a leg" or "kill two birds with one stone" --  and playing games designed to help improve English vocabulary and comprehension, conversation leaders can be creative with their groups. Haffner said the leaders enjoy working with participants and learning about different cultures.

"One of our students said English Together is a good place to meet new people, interact and share," she said. "My favorite part of the program is seeing how leaders work with the groups. It's different every week so a participant can learn something new each time."

Learn more

The first meeting for employees interested in being conversation leaders is Thursday, Sept. 7 (4-5 p.m., 034 Parks Library). For those who can't volunteer to be a conversation leader, Haffner said promoting the program -- both to potential leaders as well as participants -- makes a difference.

"Sometimes students or community members think they need to register or sign up, but English Together is meant to be a drop-in time for anyone available," Haffner said. "We would love it if employees could share our program with anyone who might be interested."