The Global Learning Center (GLC) and the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures (LLC) within the College of Arts and Sciences are pleased to announce the launch of the Peer-Assisted Language Support Program, or "PALS." The PALS program matches LLC students looking for conversation practice in the language(s) they are studying with student volunteers who are native or advanced speakers of those languages.
"Anyone who has studied a foreign language in school knows that speaking is one of the hardest skills to practice. It's too easy to slip into English with the other students during class or when you walk out the classroom door, so reinforcement of the spoken language is more difficult in a non-immersion setting. As a result, students don't feel confident when it comes to having a conversation or even just asking for something they need in that language," reflects Jessica Wilson, Director of the GLC.
She adds, "The PALS program aims to change that by connecting Seton Hall peers for foreign language conversation practice in non-threatening settings. A student who is currently studying, say, Russian can be matched with a student volunteer who is fluent and wants to help them practice in an informal environment with no judgement or the pressure of being graded on their performance."
Why Should I Get Involved?
Wilson explains some of the many benefits of having a peer language conversation partner. Native speakers get to share their language and culture with someone who has a vested interest; in turn, language students receive authentic conversation practice in a less formal setting.
Listening comprehension is another skill students can hone when speaking with someone whose accent differs from their teacher's or the class's audio materials. But most importantly, she states, is the kind of learning that comes from working with a peer in a relaxed atmosphere.
"A peer language exchange is like meeting a friend for coffee versus sitting in the classroom. You can chat about anything while enjoying each other's company and improving important skills that enhance your overall language experience and ability. It's the next best thing to an actual immersion in a country of that language."
How Can I Get Involved?
Both undergraduate and graduate students are welcome to participate. Anyone interested can sign up on the GLC's website to be paired with someone in their language of choice. Once a match is determined, students are provided each other's contact information. From there, the meetings are flexible and scheduled on the pair's own time, whenever and wherever they would like to get together. Students are encouraged to practice chatting over lunch or coffee, or to arrange the occasional virtual session if desired.
Students are asked to commit to at least one meeting for one hour a week, but more time is always encouraged for optimum language reinforcement. Pairs should aim to meet up for the whole semester. If either partner wishes to be rematched for any reason, Wilson notes that students should not hesitate to contact the GLC.
Students who volunteer their time as conversation partners can receive certificates of volunteer hours upon request. These may be used with various organizations as well as on resumes. Students should check with their student groups, organizations or societies to see if participation in the PALS program could count toward any volunteering requirements.
Likewise, interested student organizations, course faculty or other departments are welcome to contact the GLC about accepting PALS volunteer hours.
PALS vs. Tutoring
Students are reminded that this is not tutoring, and all those who need academic support in the language they're studying should not consider PALS a substitute for the instruction they receive from the LLC's professional tutors. Students in need of academic language support should consult with LLC Tutors.