Putting together puzzles, playing Scrabble and discussing current events may seem like simple activities, but when done in an unfamiliar language, they can be much more challenging. At MU, foreign students are using these activities to practice language skills.
Students in the Intensive English Program visit Lenoir Retirement Community every other week to socialize with residents and practice English.
The program has been going on for more than a decade.
“The students gain insight into the lives of older Americans,” said Debbie Parker, an Intensive English Program instructor. “They also gain confidence speaking to people other than their instructors in our program.”
The program, created in 1978, allows non-native English speakers to improve their language skills before beginning course work.
The program is also open to individuals who want to improve their English.
The students in the program meet five hours a day, five days a week. Visits to Lenoir provide them with a relaxed approach to learning the language and American culture.
During a visit Oct. 5, Yuko Inamuro of Japan and Mahamat Tchetchere of Chad were paired with resident Parker Rossman. The trio discussed magazines, experiences in other countries and the difficulties of language barriers.
“We talk about whatever we might be interested in,” Rossman said.
Rossman said he thinks it’s a problem when foreign students only socialize with peers from their homeland. Inamuro added that she has few opportunities to communicate with those outside her peer group.
“I can speak with students the same age as me whenever, but I don’t really have the opportunity to speak with people more than 60 years old,” said Inamuro.
Other residents were also paired with one or two students. Lenoir resident Virginia Norris and Chinese student Xiaoying Sheng discussed ideas from lists the program created, including their favorite foods, family members and hobbies.
“My favorite thing about going to Lenoir will be chatting pleasurably about whatever I want to, sharing feelings just like with my own grandparents and listening to their experiences when they were young,” Sheng said.
Tchetchere said for a foreign student, any event like this is helpful even if you just learn a new word or practice listening.