Interactive club helps students learn English as a second language

Photo by Scott Wells | The Prospectus   International student Lillian Ankono, a Nursing major, is enrolled in her first semester at Parkland College. Coming from Cameroon she is a non-native speaker of English and is enrolled in ESL classes.

Photo by Scott Wells | The Prospectus
International student Lillian Ankono, a Nursing major, is enrolled in her first semester at Parkland College. Coming from Cameroon she is a non-native speaker of English and is enrolled in ESL classes.

Humna Sharif
Staff Writer

The diverse student body at Parkland is comprised of people from countries all over the world. Many of these students learn English as a second, or sometimes even a third, language.

There are a number of academic programs in place that teach English to non-native speakers. English as a second language, or ESL classes, are amongst the most well-known ways to learn English.

One resource that many students might not be aware of is the English Conversation Club (ECC). This is a student organization at Parkland overseen by a faculty member. ECC tackles the challenge of familiarizing non-native speakers with English in a fun and interactive way.

Wendy Patriquin, of the Humanities department, is an Associate Professor of ESL and the current faculty advisor for the ECC. According to Patriquin, the English Conversation Club was established by an international student from South Korea about ten years ago. The intent behind the creation of ECC was to provide international students with a place to practice English while also learning about American culture.

During club meetings both international and American students converse about various topics pertaining to American culture, living in the United States, upcoming holidays and events. Occasionally, the club also invites guest speakers.

Hyunsik Na is the current President of the ECC. Being from South Korea, English is not Na’s first language and he is still working on mastering it.

“Even though I do not speak English very well, I took on being the president of the club to make other international students feel more comfortable, and motivate them to join ECC,” Na commented.

According to Ryan Person, vice president of the ECC, the main purpose of the club is to enhance the conversational skills of non-native speakers. The club officers try to bring a topic for conversation to the meetings every week.

Sometimes the members play games, watch short videos or even meet outside of Parkland for recreational activities such as ice-skating and bowling. When the opportunity presents itself, ECC also participates in local cultural fairs and takes short trips to nearby areas. All these activities are geared towards providing an atmosphere that a classroom environment cannot provide.

The club doesn’t have any teachers and there aren’t any homework assignments. Members do bring the homework they have gotten from other classes to ECC meetings so someone can help them with it. Nerdin Arslan is a Turkish student at Parkland studying to become a kindergarten teacher. She said that coming to the ECC meetings has really enhanced her English listening skills, which in turn helps her learn to speak the language better.

“I also get help on my homework from other students. Ryan Person usually helps me,” Arslan said.

Several ECC members commented that they have made a lot of friends by attending the meetings and, apart from being fun, the club also helps them with their academics.

Another co-curricular program quite similar to the ECC is the International Buddies Program. Wendy Patriquin is also the faculty advisor for this program. The idea behind the International Buddies Program is to match one American student with an international student. This allows the international student to practice English and learn about American culture. Whereas, the American student learns about a foreign culture, and can possibly practice a different language as well.

“The theory behind this type of interaction is to create more of a community on campus,” Patriquin commented. “Any time students feel more engaged in a campus community, they will probably continue at the college thereby helping retention rates.”

Unfortunately, Patriquin has been trying to get the program going for over three years now but it has never taken off. However, all students are highly encouraged to join the International Buddies Program.

To learn more about the ECC and the International Buddies Program, contact Wendy Patriquin at wpatriquin@parkland.edu. This semester the English Conversation Club meets on Tuesdays from 12-1 pm in room C-138. All Parkland students are welcome to attend and the club also encourages American students to join.