English Conversation Training

Table of Contents

The goal of the English Conversationalist Volunteer position is twofold: create additional opportunities for residents to practice conversational English and develop meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships between residents and volunteers. As stated in the basic training, it’s important to check your heart in preparation for this role; we must humble ourselves and ensure we aren’t seeing ourselves as “greater than” or “smarter than” just because we are in the teaching role for this particular subject. Pray for wisdom, grace, and patience for yourself and your partner as you begin this journey together. 

It’s hard to overstate the full importance of learning English for DASH residents. Speaking English with fluency and clarity helps residents thrive in their new lives in the United States–everything from participating in everyday activities, like grocery shopping or navigating public transit, to obtaining meaningful employment is eased by strong English skills. With so much potential to make a meaningful and lasting impact, this is one of the most valuable volunteer roles in DASH. The best part is any native English speaker can participate in this role! You do not have to be a teacher or have any previous experience in teaching to participate; simply talking with residents is enough to help them improve their English ability. 

We compiled 12 weeks of one hour conversation plans to review. These English conversations can be done via Zoom or in-person, depending on your comfort level. We prefer for all English Conversation Volunteers to commit to a one hour conversation per week for a twelve week period to give the resident a chance to work through all of the lessons. However, if you are not able to make this time commitment, let us know and we can adjust the teaching plan to meet your availability. You can skip weeks or schedule meetings according to you and your partner’s schedule. This volunteer role is very flexible–make it work for you!

Guidelines & Tips

  • Non-English speakers generally know what things are, but they do not always know the English names for them.
  • Residents will make lots of mistakes when speaking; try to keep your corrections to a minimum. Your job is to provide the resident with English exposure and a change to grow in self-confidence.
  • Speak SLOWLY and CLEARLY–please try to be intentional about this!
  • Ask questions and listen patiently. If your partner does not understand a question, repeat it with hand gestures.
  • If you do not understand what they are trying to tell you, ask them, “I’m sorry, but can you repeat?” 
  • Use pictures, objects, or hand gestures as visual aids while you converse.
  • You can use Google translate as needed, but try not to depend on it
  • It can be helpful to show your partner a photo and encourage them to ask you questions about it. This helps them practice questions.
  • Answer questions slowly and simply; confirm that your partner understands your responses by asking, “Do you understand?” 
  • Get comfortable with awkward moments–embrace them! As you get to know your partner and begin conversing in English together, awkward or silly moments may abound. Make peace with these moments and learn to laugh things off. You may be the only person who understands English in your conversation, but laughter is universal–be silly and have fun as you learn to communicate with your partner!

The Curriculum: A support for your meetings

  • Each lesson has a topic, short vocabulary list, and suggested questions 
  • Please pronounce the vocabulary words for your partner and ask them to repeat the words at least two times. Say, “Please repeat.”  They are used to this phrase from other classes.
  • Ask follow up questions related to the topic.  Share your own information about the topic to keep the conversation going and help your partner feel comfortable.
  • If your partner can’t understand a question, move on. Try to keep the conversation going as much as you can.
  • Remember to smile and use body language clues to indicate that you want to understand and get to know your partner. Sometimes they are afraid to practice because they know their language is limited; try to make them as comfortable as possible!

Additional Suggestions

  • Review or begin to learn a foreign language yourself
    • This helps you understand the difficulties of learning a new language. Duolingo is a free app you can download that has a lot of different languages; in fact, many DASH residents use this app to practice English!
  • Become an amateur anthropologist
    • Take interest in your partner’s culture as you learn and build a relationship – you can learn as much about their culture as they can about English! 
    • Have fun and grow in love, patience, and understanding as you serve 
    • Remember the golden rule: Do unto others (your conversation partner) as you would want him or her to do unto you. This ministry has the potential to help you become more like Christ.

Conversation Partners Lesson Plans and Vocabulary  12 Weeks

Each week the lesson plan includes a topic, vocabulary words related to the topic, and questions to prompt conversation.  Feel free to modify and add to the questions as you see fit.  

Please note that this curriculum is just a starting point: if your conversation takes you in a different direction, follow it! You have the freedom to make alterations to the conversation plan as you see fit. We are so grateful for your involvement and enthusiasm to work alongside our residents and help them develop their English skills!

WeekTopicVocabularySuggested Questions and Prompts
1IntroductionAddress, country, language, married, single, childrenIntroduce yourself! This week is for you to get to know each other and start developing a relationship.
Suggested Questions: What is your name? Where are you from? What language do you speak? Which town or city are you from in your country? When did you come to Fort Worth? Where do you live? Do you live in an apartment or with a host family? Are you married? Do you have any children? Tell me about your city or country. Is your city the capital? How many people live in your city or town? Did you live on a farm (on the beach, in the mountains, on a river)? Please do not ask why they are here because it often involves trauma and loss.
2At HomeLiving room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, stove, refrigerator, shower, bathtub, toilet, sink, patio, balcony, swimming poolYou can use pictures of your home or homes in magazines to guide the conversation this week. Another idea could be to move your camera around if you are on a video call. Please use “there is” and “there are” questions throughout this conversation.
Suggested Questions: Are there two bedrooms in your apartment? Is there a stove in your kitchen? Do you have a television in your living room? Is your apartment on the first floor or second floor? How many people are there in your home? Where is the washing machine? Is there a balcony or patio in your apartment? Share information about your home or apartment.
3My FamilyFather, mother, grandparent, grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle, daughter, son, child, husband, wife, spouse, brother, sister, siblingPhotographs are suggested for this class as well. If you have a couple of photos of family members in your cell phone, send them to your partner. Ask them to send photos to you from their cell phones as well.
Suggested Questions: How many brothers and sisters do you have? Is your brother/sister older or younger than You? Where do your parents live? How many brothers and sisters do your parents have? Do you have a big family or a small family? Is your grandfather still living? Is your grandmother still living? Do you talk to your _ (some family member) very often? Is your spouse here or in your country? Who are you closest to in your family? What kind of work does your _ (some family member) do?
4SportsBaseball, football, soccer, basketball, tennis, swimming, volleyball, golf, the Olympics (any other sports)You can use sports equipment, if you have it, and/or pictures of teams and sports you like. Note: Most other countries in the world call soccer “football.” You may need to explain that American football is not the same sport and is more popular here. Most DASH residents have seen American Football on TV, so they have some understanding of the game. Some may have questions about how it is played–if so, this could be an opportunity to expand the conversation!
Suggested Questions: Which sports do you like to play? Which sports do you like to watch? Do you play any sports now? Do you like to watch the Olympics? Are there Olympic teams and athletes in your country? Do you watch the winter Olympics? Would you like to try some of the winter sports? Who is a famous athlete in your country? Which sport does he/she play? You can also ask about different sports they have played and if they were on a sports team in their country. Share your past and present sports activities and talk about your favorite teams.
5Places to VisitNational refuge, famous landmarks, museums, tourists, vacationAsk and answer questions about places to visit in your partner’s country and here. Pictures of national parks, local and state sites, and tourist attractions are helpful aids. Encourage them to talk about places in their country; it’s easy to turn this conversation into a tour of the United States based on your own travels. Once they mention a place (example: the refuge for mountain gorillas in the Congo), ask some follow up questions about it.
Suggested Questions: Is it easy to visit? Did you go there? Did you see any wild animals from your country? Share stories from your experiences, but remember to keep the conversation equally balanced. They may struggle with vocabulary, so try to guess what they are talking about or use the translator on your phone. It helps to prepare by doing a Google search for “tourist destinations in __(name of country)” prior to meeting.
6FoodCooking, cuisine, fry, bake, grill, stew, salad, dessertAsk and answer questions about typical (and unusual) foods you each eat. Ask about food grown in their country, the price of food in their country, how many meals people usually eat in their country, their favorite foods, and what they usually eat. Ask about typical American foods. Ask about shopping for food in their country.
Suggested Questions: Do people usually eat three meals a day in your country? What do people eat for (breakfast, lunch,
dinner)? Do people shop for food in supermarkets or from farmers? Do you like any American food? Have you had any food from restaurants here? If so, what kind? In your country, do men or women usually cook for their families? Do some people hunt and fish for food in your country? This is usually an “easy” discussion topic; if you don’t finish, the topic can carry over into the next session. It helps to prepare by doing a Google search for “food in
(name of country)” prior to meeting. You can also ask questions about hospitality and food or special foods for holidays.
7Movies and TVPrograms, comedy, drama, science fiction, horror, news, actors, the Oscars, documentary, cartoonAsk and answer questions about movies and television shows you each enjoy. Ask about their favorite actors and types of movies or TV shows.
Suggested Questions: Do you watch television? Which programs do you usually watch? What kinds of shows do you like on television (dramas, comedies, educational, news)? Who is your favorite movie star/actor/actress? What kind of movies do you like? Have you seen an animated movie? Do you like cartoons? Do most people in your country go to the movie theater? Do most people watch television on their cell phones? Does watching television help you learn English? Do you watch The Academy Awards (the Oscars) Ceremony? Are there famous actors in your country? What is/are their names?
8Getting MarriedEngagement, wedding, bride, groom, reception, ceremony, honeymoon, anniversaryYou can use photos of your own wedding and/or weddings you have attended to help with this topic. Wedding customs vary significantly from one culture to the next.
Suggested questions: Do couples date in your country? Are marriages arranged by the parents? What is the usual age to get married for men? For women? What kind of clothes do the bride and groom wear for the wedding? Is the ceremony formal or informal? Who pays for the wedding and the reception? Do couples usually go on a honeymoon after the wedding? What was your wedding like?
9MusicClassical, rock, popular, jazz, country, guitar, piano, orchestra, band, concert, radio, listen to music, choirPlaying different types of music is recommended as part of this conversation. Share some of your favorite songs with your partner.
Suggested questions: What kind of music do you like? Do you play an instrument? What is your favorite musical instrument? What kind of music is popular in your country? Who are your favorite musicians? Who are your favorite singers? Do you like any American music? Did you ever go to a concert? Do you like opera? Do you like symphony concerts?
10WorkJob, employee, employer, boss, supervisor, salary, paycheck, benefits, part time, full time, work, retireMost adults work. This week, you will discuss yours and your partner’s work history. Also, ask about what work they would like to do in the U.S. when they receive their work permit.
Suggested Questions: What jobs did you have in your country? Which job was your favorite? Why was it your favorite? Did you ever own a business? What kind? Do people work 5 days each week or more in your country? What kinds of jobs do most people have in your country? Do you like to work at night or in the day? What kind of job do you hope to get in the United States? Do you need more education or training to get that kind of job? Do people retire in your country?
11HobbiesCrafting, fishing, collecting (stamps, etc.), painting, reading, camping, hiking, bird watching, playing games, solving puzzlesMany people have hobbies. This week you will primarily discuss hobbies but can also discuss leisure activities.
Suggested Questions: Do you have any hobbies? What are they? Did you ever make money from your hobbies? Some people watch YouTube videos to learn new hobbies or improve a hobby they already have. Did you ever watch a YouTube video and try to do something new? Tell me about it. Does anyone else in your family have a hobby? Talk about that. Share any hobbies you have as examples and help them understand some popular hobbies in the U.S.
12Your New HomeVocabulary will be related to the places you talk about around Texas. Choose local sites such as the Fort Worth Botanical Garden or the Kimbell Museum, then mention other places in TexasThis conversation will include telling your conversation partner about things to do and see in Texas and especially in Fort Worth. You can include photos as part of this discussion. To make sure they also talk during this session, you can play a game similar to “I Spy.” In the game, you will say, “I am thinking of a place in __” (name of a city or town in Texas). Then, help them ask questions to guess what place you are thinking of.
For example: You might choose the Fort Worth zoo. Your partner might ask, “Is this place downtown?” After two questions, give a hint. If your partner hasn’t guessed after 10 questions, give him/her the answer. Then, your partner will choose a place in his country, and it will be your turn to ask the questions. This works best when everyone chooses familiar or famous places. After the question session, each person can explain more about the place and share information about it. If you decide not to play the game, simply take turns talking about a famous or interesting place.

Additional/alternative topics

  • Holidays
  • Computers and other technology
  • Emergencies (when and who to call, did you ever experience an emergency here? What was it?)
    • Please be sensitive to traumatic experiences residents may have endured and never push someone to talk about a past event they uncomfortable discussing
  • My last birthday
  • Comparing and contrasting the weather and climate here from the weather in their country of origin

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