Learning English is a requirement for many overseas students at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. They hone their communication abilities by interacting with instructors, staff, and fellow students.
A new program flips traditional roles, offering international students the opportunity to be the experts who teach others their home languages. The weekly Non-English Conversation Tables, which began last month, are a collaboration between the UNK Department of Modern Languages and the Office of International Education.
Members of the campus and Kearney-area communities are encouraged to stop by the Nebraskan Student Union food court every Thursday from 4-5 p.m. to engage with foreign students from a range of nations. Every table is labelled differently. Participants can pick from Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Russian, or Spanish to practice or learn.
Around 20 international students are volunteering as table leaders, guiding the conversations in a friendly, laid-back atmosphere. After engaging in a similar UNK program that allows international students to practice their English language abilities, Chris Jacobs, an assistant professor in the Department of Modern Languages, came up with the idea for the Non-English Conversation Tables.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to flip the script and present another group of students/learners with the opportunity to practice languages while bringing individuals from other countries and cultures together,” said Jacobs, who teaches French, Italian, and Spanish.
The curriculum clearly benefits students learning a foreign language, but it is also open to newcomers who want to master the fundamentals. Participation is free, and no preregistration is required. Each week, one lucky participant will be chosen to receive a food basket representing one of the available languages.
International students benefit from the Conversation Tables as well. That’s why, when Jacobs suggested the idea, the Office of International Education “quickly leapt on board.” The Non-English Conversation Tables will be continued through May 5.
“We’re always looking for ways to help our international students engage and interact with the campus and Kearney communities,” said Tracy Falconer, an assistant director in the Office of International Education.
“This is an amazing opportunity for them to connect with other students and members of the community while sharing their language, culture, and a little of themselves with the people they meet.”
Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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