Language Partner Program Hones Conversational Language Skills for Foreign and Domestic Students

Dec. 9, 2010


FLORENCE, Ala. – As the University of North Alabama expands its global perspective by offering a more diverse student body and academic curriculum that prepares young people for their future careers, a revamped Language Partner program through the Office of International Affairs is gaining a lot of attention.

The program, which is sponsored by ESL instructor Reeda Lee and under the direction of student administrator Allison Ray, allows ESL students to improve their conversational English skills by communicating with native speakers. Students who get involved can participate in the English-only or Dual-Language components.

Lee said approximately 50 American students and 25-30 international students at UNA are signed up to participate in the Language Partner program. The program gives students the opportunity to interact one-on-one or in small groups for 1-2 hours each week to learn a new language and share each other’s cultures.

“I encourage students to take advantage of the program because it’s an opportunity to expand one’s global perspective,” Ray said. “If people can’t go on to study abroad, this is a way to experience cultural sharing and diversity at home. It’s a great way to give back to the community and really make an impact on a student’s life.”

The English-only route allows American students to share their language with international students who are looking to improve their knowledge of English. Through the Dual-Language component, American and international students pair together to practice two separate languages twice a week. Currently, the program offers native speakers of Arabic, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, French and Russian.

According to the program’s organizers, one of UNA’s recent goals is to improve international education and retention of students. Lee and Ray hope the Language Partner program will help more ESL students make connections with people within the first two months after arriving on campus.

“From a teacher’s standpoint, this program lets international students know they are truly welcome here at UNA and not just by administration and faculty, but by the students, as well,” Lee said. “It takes a lot of courage to send a child halfway around the world to study and to leave their home environment, so it must be a comfort to parents to know that their child has a contact on campus.”

The program is open to UNA students of all majors, and experience gained can be counted as community or volunteer service. Students who want to get involved can stop by the Office of International Affairs to pick up an application or apply online at www.una.edu/international.

For more information, contact the Office of International Affairs at 256-765-4756.