Program helps language skills

Learning to speak conversational English is much harder than picking up written English.

Some retired professors at the University are putting their teaching skills to work again by helping international teaching and research assistants with their English skills through the Partners in English program. The goal is to help the assistants with conversational English they encounter in their classrooms. The program will result in a more efficient class for both the student and teaching or research assistant.

The program is voluntary for both the retired professors and assistants. The program is voluntary in that those teaching assistants who feel their classrooms would benefit from the program are taking action.

Learning how to read and write a language is a completely different skill from the conversation ability one acquires from practicing speaking. The professors are spending time with the international assistants speaking at the fast pace they will encounter in their classrooms.

Eight professors are working with approximately 30 international graduate students, with 20 more waiting to start the process. The program is hoping that more people will sign up to teach so it can serve as many assistants as want to participate. Program organizers are also stressing that people other than retired professors are welcome to volunteer to teach, because the more volunteers, the better.

A program such as Partners in English is a good example of the campus doing what it can with its own resources to better itself. The English as a Second Language program was cut in 2004 because of a decline in enrollment causing a loss of skilled professors in the field. The cutbacks hindered international assistants from using an important resource to get help with their spoken English. The Partners in English program is a sufficient new way for international assistants to get help if they want it.

The Partners in English program will benefit both students who are enrolled in classes taught wholly or partially by international assistants and the assistants themselves inside and outside of the classroom.