Group gives international students chance to practice English
An OU student organization is helping international and exchange students improve their grasp of the English language in an informal setting.
Nikki Self, The Oklahoma Daily
English Conversation Café, which met Saturday for the second time, is presented by students involved with Campus Crusade for Christ and is intended to provide students a friendly way to improve their English-speaking skills, environmental health graduate student Andy Borgstrom said.
“We knew that there were a lot of international students who need to learn English,” Borgstrom said. “We thought we should put ourselves in their shoes.”
The group’s weekly meetings offer students the chance to practice their English while having fun, communication sophomore Sarah Hunt said.
“It’s like we were just hanging out, it’s not intimidating as a classroom,” Hunt said.
English Café attendees get to choose what they want to talk about and work on, making the exercises well-adapted to their needs, Hunt said.
“We ask them what would they want to work on and what would benefit them the most,” she said. “They often just say being around people who speak, being in a normal setting and listening to a conversation.”
By talking about simple subjects such as their siblings, hobbies or even favorite desserts, participants are encouraged to practice English while making friends.
Limbo Baldwin, electrical and electronics engineering major and Chinese student, arrived in the U.S. a month ago and, like the rest of his group of Chinese international friends, has to take a full semester at the Center for English as a Second Language before beginning classes in the fall, he said.
“I think I have improved a lot already because now I can communicate with people and it’s very helpful,” Baldwin said. “I think it’s very interesting ... I will come every week.”
With different nationalities and people who have been in the U.S. from one to nine months taking part, English Café also is a multicultural meeting point.
“There are a lot of different types of people, it’s one of our big challenges and we love to welcome whoever wishes to come,” Hunt said.
Borgstrom wanted to tangibly serve others and enjoys the sense of satisfaction he gains from participating in English Café, he said.
Hunt said she agrees.
“It’s on Saturdays,” she said. “I don’t really do much anyways, so I thought ‘why don’t I do something more productive and helpful for others?’”
The interest of these students in the international community may be what brought them to do this, but they quickly realized there was as much teaching as learning, Borgstrom said.
“As Americans, we are pretty illiterate of the rest of the world, so any opportunities to have different views of cultures and languages is good,” Borgstrom said. “We would have a vision for it to carry on even after we’re gone, we’ll love for them to continue as long as possible.”