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Program offers international students a space to practice English skills

| Thursday, March 5, 2020

The English Language Table for International Students is a diverse program that aids foreign and native students and staff in their understanding of the English language, as well as American culture. Held in 334 Bond Hall on the first and third Thursday of each month, the event invites both native and non-native speakers to join in fellowship as they practice the English language together.

“It’s a relaxed, social gathering where people can come to ask questions about the English language or American culture and to make friends with other people on campus,” said Lisa Oglesbee, coordinator of English for academic purposes.

Undergraduate, graduate, faculty, doctorate and post-doctorate members of the Notre Dame community are all welcome to attend the bimonthly event.

“Anybody who wants to practice their spoken English is invited. We have students that come, staff that comes and even spouses that come,” Lea Barthuly, a head faculty leader of the program, said.

The meetings often run through prepared questions, Barthuly said. After splitting into small groups, a question is read aloud, and the attendees are encouraged to answer in English. Each small group includes at least one native English speaker who is able to answer any questions participants may have about pronunciation or grammar. The questions are meant to help participants practice their English and get to know their fellow attendees.

Barthuly said “Would You Rather” has been played in the past as an entertaining way to pose new questions, practice the language and enjoy the company of fellow peers.

In addition to the interactive practice students and staff gain from attending the English Table, attendees also get to enjoy the food provided at each event, Barthuly said. A different snack is prepared each week, and participants get to enjoy their treat all while sharing in community with other campus members.

Xin Li, a visiting PhD student from China, has been attending the English table ever since she first arrived at Notre Dame. In addition to the learning opportunities the event provides, Li said English Table can be a wonderful opportunity to get to know other cultures and deepen the understanding of diversity on campus.

Because there are so many cultures represented at the English Table, attending the event is a wonderful opportunity to enrich one’s knowledge of different people and cultures all across campus, as well as the world, Barthuly said.

“I think that it’s a place for people to come and talk about their lives in a safe setting and feel like they have the time to express themselves despite their language ability,” Barthuly said. “It’s an environment where no one is expected to be perfect.”

Barthuly encourages any student, whether a native or non-native speaker, to attend and join the English Table community.

“We’re here to provide a community and language help, as well as cultural assistance,” Oglesbee said. “We do a lot to provide services across the board for our international friends on campus.”

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