Teaching International Students Everyday English

October 31, 2016

Everyday English Class
“How Have You Been?” “What Have You Been Doing?” “Where Have You Been?” 
It might be obvious to you that these three questions are different, but they can certainly confuse many international students. Thanks to PAF alumna Yuxuan Shen, ESIA BA ‘13 MA ‘16, who initiated the Everyday English workshop with the help of GW language center, international students now have a place to work on their English speaking and listening ability so that they can engage their American classmates and professors more effectively.   
I find that most culture barriers actually stem from language barriers. English is my second language, and I understand the delight when complex thoughts are communicated. I can also attest to you the disheartening feeling when my thought is lost and I am misunderstood.
The purpose of Everyday English is to empower international students so that when they leave the Marvin Center every Wednesday, they are motivated to strike meaningful conversations with their American classmates. The program offers lessons ranging from ordering at a restaurant and navigating sensitive questions, to using sarcasm with friends and appropriate behaviors for business interviews.
Note a simple question for you and me consists of many intricate parts and takes practice to master. For example, international students for whom English is not their first language learn that the use of the idiom “picked up” does not mean a physical motion but instead means the speed of the course. They also learn that when asking for help, the right intonation is crucial for the question to be properly understood.
For many international students, in order to have  a more meaningful friendship with their peers and more productive interactions with their professors, they need a place where they are encouraged to learn and practice colloquial English. Oftentimes such practice is omitted from academic environments, which is why Everyday English is a vital initiative of which I am proud to be a part.