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Speaking Partners at BYU-I

Program helps students to improve their English language skills

February 9, 2013

Writer: Marianne Holman

LDS Church News recently featured the BYU-Idaho Speaking Partners program.  

The Speaking Partners Program, which is associated with the BYU-Idaho Pathway Program, is a way for International Students to improve their knowledge of the English Language and will open doors to more employment opportunities in the future.  

The program works through the volunteering of time by BYU-Idaho students, faculty, members of the community and any LDS Church members fluent in English with access to highspeed internet, a webcam and microphone.  Sessions typically last 20-40 minutes, twice a week.  

LDS Church News interviewed BYU-Idaho's International Manager of Pathway, Rebecca Cheney, on the topic of Speaking Partner Volunteers:

"This is not only a volunteer opportunity to connect to somebody around the world, it really is a life-changing experience for them and the person they are working with.  Giving their time, not necessarily other means, just their time is life-changing.  I say life-changing because those who really jump in and do it build this bond with somebody in the gospel. As a side benefit, they build a relationship with somebody; they trust in them, engage in meaningful conversations and receive feedback and help.  They get to where they really trust the speaking partner and ask them questions"

The Speaking Partner Program was initiated in the Spring of 2011 and started with BYU-Idaho student volunteers speaking to a group of 20 Pathway students in Mexico.  As the Pathway Program has grown so has the Speaking Partner Program to where it is today enabling all 693 International Pathway students from countries such as Russia, Albania, Peru, Ghana and soon to be Ecuador and Guatemala ,to improve their English and make lasting connections and bonds with students in the United States.  

Kendra Sanders, a Speaking Partner volunteer interviewed by LDS Church News, discovered after only one semester that working with international students on their English was so much more than just a way for her to practice teaching and serving:

"I couldn't believe how much I was able to gain from the experience.  Of course, I was able to critique my own teaching techniques and stretch myself to be a better teacher, but I found that my favorite and most memorable part was becoming a speaking partner rather than a speaking teacher.  As we went over the lessons, my speaking partner would blow me away with the experiences and insights that we would share with me.  He had such a different perspective on things and it was such a humbling experience for me to learn about his culture and his life experiences.  I went in to the program thinking I might be able to change a life, but I didn't expect that they would do the same for me."

To read more on this LDS Church News spotlight visit the BYU-Idaho Speaking Partner article.  

Feeling inspired?  Volunteer now to become a BYU-Idaho Speaking Partner!