IESL Conversation Partners

Conversation Partners is a program sponsored by the Intensive English as a Second Language Program that pairs multilingual learners of English with native or near-native English-speaking members of the Michigan Tech community. The program is open to students, faculty, and staff. Participants commit to one hour per week of one-on-one informal conversation in English.

Participants sign a contract with the IESL program for one semester requiring them to meet their partner in public places on campus for a minimum of one hour per week.

How the Program Works

  1. Interested students, faculty, and staff members can apply online.
  2. The IESL Program matches students with volunteers. The program makes every effort to match people of the same gender though sometimes this may be difficult. We will always check with you before matching you with someone of the opposite gender.
  3. The IESL Program introduces conversation partners to each other at an initial meeting. Both parties sign a contract stating that they will meet on campus once per week for the duration of the semester.
  4. Though partners meet independently, Listening and Speaking teachers will often check in with students.
  5. If there are any concerns, please contact the IESL Program as soon as possible.

Why Should I Apply?

There are many reasons you should volunteer your time as a conversation partner. Here are just a few:

  • Make a new friend and create a rewarding friendship.
  • Help an international student understand American culture and society.
  • Experience the emerging global landscape from the unique perspective of one of our international students.
  • Develop deeper cultural awareness and understanding.
  • Participate in promoting rewarding international relations and cross-cultural dialogue on campus.

What Would I Do as a Conversation Partner?

Your main responsibility is to offer your multilingual partner conversation practice. At times you may have to explain English language points but we are not asking you to be an English as a Second Language teacher. The goal is for your conversation partner to have plenty of speaking and listening practice.

The IESL Program can provide ideas for your weekly meetings at the program’s preliminary meeting.

What Participants Are Saying

Learn About Yourself and Others

“Meeting with my conversation partner allowed me to learn about a new culture and how international students understand American culture. This allowed me to think more about why there are certain traditions in American culture. To put it simply, I learned about myself, my international friend, and the American culture in which we live.”

Undergraduate Student

Helping IESL Students

“Being a conversation partner is a fun and interesting way to help IESL students who are trying to improve their conversation skills, in addition to learning about American and local culture. I feel enriched by the experience of getting to know a bit about these exceptional students and their cultures as well.”


Give Back the Patience You've Received

“I think of all the times I've traveled and found myself in a situation where I really needed some kind, patient non-English-speaking person to listen while I stammer through whatever... murdering their language! For me, spending time with an ESL student is a way to give back for the kindness I've received. It's always fun getting to know somebody from a different culture, and it's very gratifying to see how quickly their English develops. You make a difference in a very tangible way.”

Graduate Student