Students Buddy Up for Language Learning

With students from more than 30 countries in our boarding community alone, the Modern Languages department wanted to tap into the fabulous linguistic resource that exists at SMUS.

Senior School students can now participate in our newly launched Foreign Language Reading Buddy Program, which pairs students who are currently studying Chinese, Spanish and French with senior classmates who are proficient in those languages. Beginner language learners are paired with another student to practise correct pronunciation and intonation, and spontaneous conversational skills.

We feel strongly that being bilingual is an important part of being a global citizen. We want to give students confidence in their oral expression of their target language, which is often the most difficult part of learning a language as a lot of students are self-conscious about their accents and ability to be understood. Most adolescents are concerned with what their peers think, so to be confident that one will be understood when speaking is tricky at the beginning of learning a new language.

Participation in the program is completely voluntary, but students have stepped up enthusiastically to offer their language skills and to be mentored; there are more than 100 students participating in the program.

Although some boarding and day students have worked together in the past to help each other learn language skills, we wanted to have a formal program that takes advantage of the knowledge base that students bring to our community and for them to interact with one another. It’s also a great way for senior students to develop their leadership skills, including patience and humility.

We’ve looked at initiating this program previously, but had neither a time in the week which was convenient for all students, nor a place for this many students to work together with enough space for privacy. With support from both Mrs. Tweedie and Mr. Primrose, our time and place were taken care of – during flex on Fridays in The Snowden Library – and the mentors and mentees have really taken advantage of the opportunity.

Both the beginners and the mentors have enjoyed their first sessions and are looking forward to the other Reading Buddy sessions this term.

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