07:05 AM

Bridging the Gap between English Language Learners and University Students

The English Language Institute (ELI) at the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) hosted its first "Conversation Club" from Feb. 7 through March 2.

The ELI decided to implement this volunteer activity in order to bridge the gap between academic and English second language learners and to offer a culture of inclusion. International students learned how to speak more fluently while native students practiced leadership skills and learned about different cultures.

ELI students come from Kazakhstan, Mexico, Columbia, Venezuela, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Turkey, China and other nations.

Volunteers were recruited with the support of UHD Study Abroad and the Urban Education Program.

Approximately, 24 to 34 students showed up each day and participated in faculty guided discussions.

"I liked the interactions between the volunteers and the students," said Maria Mata, an advanced level ELI student who studied chemical engineering in Columbia and plans to enter a graduate program in the U.S. "They corrected our errors. There were many volunteers who are studying to be teachers so they taught us better ways to say things such as slang and idioms. I like everything about conversation classes because they help us become more confident."

"I believe ELI students received the informal and formal instruction they need," said Caroline Salinas, a volunteer and sophomore education major. "They absorbed a new vocabulary. I learned a lot about how they function as a group and seeing the teaching style helped."