Revived Tutoring Program Helps Limited English Speakers


Courtesy of Pixabay

Conversation Hour offers students and community members a casual environment where they can practice speaking English without the pressures of a traditional language class.

Residents of Houston speak over 145 languages making it one of the most diverse cities in the country. It is a melting pot representing almost every corner of the world, and a city predicted to grow to 11.1 million people by 2040, according to the American City Business Journals.

As a result of the steady population growth, newcomers with limited English look for opportunities to improve their language skills. In response, San Jacinto College South Campus started Conversation Hour, a tutoring program for English learners that offers participants a chance to improve their linguistic abilities.

College Preparatory-ESOL Professor Elizabeth Leal said she believes the program is an invaluable community resource for both students and local residents.

“We consider this a great opportunity by giving our English learners an outlet where they can come and practice their conversation skills and gain the confidence they need to succeed in using the English language at school, work, or at home,” Leal said.

South Campus staff member Zach Mayfield said program participants encounter a friendly setting where they find assistance from helpful tutors.

“The benefit of Conversation Hour is mainly to give students and members of the community the chance to practice speaking English in a comfortable, casual, lighthearted environment without the typical pressure and stress that can sometimes be associated with a classroom,” Mayfield said.

Moreover, Leal noted the tutors use a variety of activities to engage the students like group conversations, games, and movies.

“Ultimately,” Mayfield added, “the goal is for this program to be a structured transition from speaking English in the classroom to speaking English in everyday life, in everyday circumstances.”

Inactive for five years, Conversation Hour was rebooted last fall, and Leal said it would evolve as needed to meet demand.

“Our hope is that Conversation Hour will continue to grow and expand to all campuses and surrounding communities,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mayfield said he enjoys participating in the program and wants to see it grow to reach more students.

“I sincerely love conducting Conversation Hour,” he said. “This has been my project since last semester, and I go to great lengths to make sure we do the best we can to serve our diverse population.”

Conversation Hour tutoring is offered Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:45 p.m. until 4:15 p.m., and Wednesdays from 2:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. in the Student Success Center (Room 127) of the library (S10) on the South Campus.