Conversation Partner Program

Would you like to learn about someone from a different culture?

By volunteering as a Conversation Partner (CP) at JSU's English Language Institute, you can help an ELI student to better understand the English language, the JSU campus, and American culture.

ELI students are JSU students who are studying English intensively in order to qualify for admission to JSU or another university. Toward this end, they participate in more than 25 hours of non-credit classes per week—classes where an ESL specialist guides them through English grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, composition, American culture, and other aspects of our language.

Although the students tend to be highly motivated, they are often concerned about whether they will be able to actually use the language they’ve been learning.

This is where you come in. By meeting with “a real American college student” outside of the classroom, your conversation partner will have an opportunity to use the language they’ve been learning, and (inevitably) to learn more about America and what it’s like to be a college student here.

Do I need to know their language, or how to teach English?

No. Your CP will be glad to tell you about their own language and culture, but their main interest is practicing their English and learning more about American culture. If you're having difficulty understanding one another, try a different way or just move on. Your CP may take a few notes to look something up later, but now is the time to (try to) converse in English, not study it. Remember, you’re an expert in conversational English!

What do we talk about?

At your first meeting you can talk about where you’re from, why you’re at JSU, your personal interests, and other topics that one might discuss with a new acquaintance. At subsequent meetings, unless you're attending a JSU event, it’s useful to have a fallback topic in mind before you meet—classes, roommates, sports, movies, and popular music are good conversation starters. Any topic is okay, but you will avoid risking ill feeling if you steer clear of religion, sex, and politics.

As a general guideline, be yourself, but remember that you are representing JSU in this program.

When and where do we meet?

Conversation Partners meet weekly at ELI, the Library, JSU eateries, the Fitness Center, and other comfortable university locations.

Your meetings should always take place in a public place.

What if I can’t keep a meeting, or I want to stop?

If you can't keep a meeting, alert your CP as soon as possible.

If you would like to stop participating in the Program, or if you have questions/concerns/issues, contact the ELI Director at or 256-782-8451.

Can CPs become friends?

Conversation Partners sometimes develop friendships. While this is not prohibited, keep in mind that a CP represents JSU, whether on or off campus. Note that CPs are not expected to provide any services to each other, including transportation anywhere or participating in any activity outside of the Conversation Partner Program. If you engage in such activity, it is strictly of your own choosing.

So, are you ready to change your world?

To learn more about this opportunity, contact me at, 256-782-8451 or 101 Stone Center.