The journal entries below are excerpts from two different students involved in the International Conversation Partners Project at Penn State Abington. The project is a requirement for Teaching English to English Language Learners (CI280), a required course for Childhood and Early Adolescent Education majors.
I have been fascinated by my partner’s second language acquisition. I remember feeling nervous before meeting her, wondering if it would be hard to communicate with her. After meeting Julia, I was extremely impressed by her English skills. I can remember learning Spanish in high school. As much as I practiced and completed assignments, I never felt I was going to become proficient enough to speak fluently the way Julia speaks English. I can only imagine how much hard work and effort Julia put into learning English.
She explained to me that English grammar is sometimes frustrating since there are so many rules. Julia also said reading in English can be challenging. It is sometimes difficult to understand the texts or read some words since they are designed for native English speakers or highly advanced English language learners. Julia also mentioned that she constantly has to look up the meaning of words. It takes a long time as she tries to comprehend the sentences.
During our meeting, I told Julia how proud I was of her English skills. Julia explained to me that she started learning English when she was 5. I am very proud of her for being determined and confident as she progresses on her journey of learning the English language and learning about life in American society.
Julia gave me an introductory lesson on Chinese. First, she taught me to say “hello,” “bye,” “my name is,” “how are you” and then “eat,” “school” and “home.” It was very challenging for me to pronounce these words. The sounds that I had to create were very different from the sounds of the English language. We laughed as Julia tried to teach me some of these words since I was having trouble saying them.
For our last meeting, we spoke about things that are important to us. We agree that school is very important and good grades are a must. When we are in our careers, all of the hard work will finally pay off.
This conversation partner project has opened my eyes. There were four of us from class sitting at lunch together, along with five international students from China who are involved in this project, but none of us were talking about the project. Instead, we were just discussing our lives and becoming friends. It was really nice to see all of us together not because we had to but because we wanted to. We were having girl talk and just loving the moment. This project has helped me to not generalize and stereotype.
Getting to know the international students have made a huge impact on me. These students are so open to learning about new things and are so brave to be here learning in an environment that they aren’t used to. I never thought that I would have gotten to know a group of international students so well in just a few weeks. I can honestly say that we will keep in touch.