International students, volunteers active in English learning programs

With upwards of 1,500 international students from 25 countries enrolled throughout Temple’s campuses, according to the Fall 2007 Student Profile, English intensive learning programs have become an integral aid to foreign students. Temple students play

With upwards of 1,500 international students from 25 countries enrolled throughout Temple’s campuses, according to the Fall 2007 Student Profile, English intensive learning programs have become an integral aid to foreign students. Temple students play a crucial role in the language development of international students by volunteering in these programs.


Organized through the Student LIFE Center, this is a free program for international students, as well as those in the community, to improve their conversational English.

Participants are teamed up with a staff member or volunteer. Together, they read a simplified version of a passage from the Bible and answer questions from a workbook, which is given to the students free of charge. Glen Rosenberger, executive director of the center, said although they are reading from a religious text, participants have the choice in how much or how little religion plays in their sessions.

“We’re not representing a church,” Rosenberger said. “We don’t change their beliefs or get people to join the church. It’s up to the individual, being of any faith or no faith.”

If participants don’t want to read the passages or if they feel as though it’s not working for them, then they may hold free-flowing conversations. But whether it’s reading or having a discussion, Rosenberger keeps a few things in mind.

“I never assume they know what a word means, but I also don’t want to imply that they’re stupid,” he said. “Words have different meanings. English is a difficult language to learn.”

To make international students feel welcome and make new friends, Rosenberger takes them on field trips to places such as Lancaster. Session times are flexible, but they must be held for at least one hour a week. International students or those interested in volunteering can contact Glen Rosenberger at 215-236-9304.

Conversation Partners

This is a project part of the Intensive English Language Program. IELP is for non-English speakers to develop their reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. There are also classes available to prepare foreign students for the Test of English as a Foreign Language so that they can register as students at an American college.

Conversation Partners teams up an English learner with a Temple volunteer to exchange their cultures and languages.

Sophomore Gabriel Sanchez was a student of IELP for one year. She said her conversation partner is now her best friend.

“He was learning Spanish and I was learning English,” the international business major said. “He talked to me in Spanish sometimes. I talked to him in English sometimes. It’s so funny because you learn slang, you learn jokes, and learn things that aren’t usually in the books. You really get the opportunity to meet an American and interact with them.”

Conversation Partners meet up whenever they want and have free-flowing discussions.

Students interested in wanting to improve their speaking skills in a non-English language through conversations and befriend a foreign student should contact the IELP office at 215-204-7889.

Project Shine

This program is different from the two aforementioned programs. Students undergo several hours of training in order to tutor not international students, but elderly immigrants.

“Often we forget the elderly, and we assume that they don’t want to learn or can’t learn because of their age, and that is totally not true,” said sophomore anthropology major Gaja Stirbys, who has been with Project Shine since last spring. “Often, the people I have worked with have been eager to learn. There’s so much to learn from the elderly and immigrants. It’s important that we don’t forget or abandon them.”

The students and elderly meet up once a week at one of 12 designated locations in the city. Each session is constructed to fit the participants’ interests and objectives. The older immigrants may want to improve their literacy or communication skills, or they may be preparing for their citizenship examination. Students, as well as the elderly, benefit from this program.

Stirbys began taking Spanish in high school and said her Spanish has improved due to her involvement with the program. This semester she is working with Chinese immigrants.

“I picked up Mandarin,” she said. “Also there’s some cultural stuff that you pick up on.”

Stirbys also explained there are moments of frustration when tutoring the immigrants. One difficulty she said she experienced was explaining the several meanings of the word “vice.”

“It’s sometimes difficult to communicate what you want,” Stirbys said. “And that’s part of the challenge, which is directly connected to the rewards of being able to creatively finding solutions to those challenges.”

Not only can students volunteer, but they can also participate in the program though a class or work-study. For those interested in this program can call 215-204-2354.

Anne Ha can be reached at

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