Seeking connection through translation

Iwasawa Nanaka talks with her conversation partner Emma Shortall for the first time. (Photo by Devin Imperati)

By Sierra Case Staff Writer

Makoto Sato, a Japanese international student, worries about being surrounded by English-speaking students, a common fear shared by international students, who make the difficult transition of moving to Vermont.

Conversation Partners helps expose international students to American culture with friendly faces along their side, as the pro- gram pairs international students with American students and from there, they meet every week to get to know each other and talk.

“From the Implied Linguistics Department, our goal is to get the international students to ac- tually speak english,” Madison Bennett, ALD graduate assistant, said.

Bennett explained that the program builds friendships and provides a way for international students and American students to meet, who they otherwise wouldn’t have met,

Sato expressed her liking for the program and she said that it’s helping her with her english skills as well as helping her get to know other students on campus.

“(Conversation Partners provides me with) someone to help me improve my english and someone to be friends and hang out,” Sato said.

Conversation Partners gives students a way to experience a glimpse of a completely different culture from their own and it allows students to do this by making a personal connection.

“Just by meeting with someone who’s not from the same culture as you, not from the same language, never had the same experiences you did growing up,” Bennett said, “you just learn so much about that person,”

Lily Hopkins, 21’, was paired with Sato and has been helping her learn English.

“When we meet up we usually talk about our days or week and get to know each other more,” Hopkins said.

Sato and Nanako Iwasawa, an- other Japanese international student involved in the program, both said that they feel as though Conversation Partners is helping them with both their English skills and with relieving some of their concerns of being around English-speaking students.

Iwasawa applied at the beginning of this semester and just received a partner about 2 weeks ago. “I think there are few

American students who apply, maybe because they don’t know about this program,” Iwasawa said.

Students can apply by emailing Bennett at mben- From there they will prompted to answer some questions in order to find a good match for a part- ner. Once they get a partner, they will meet regularly. Bennett encourages American students to apply.

“Our world is growing every single day,” Bennett said. “Eventually you’re going to run into someone who doesn’t speak english and you’re going to want those communication skills.”

Bennett explained that this program not only will give students an opportunity to connect with an international student and expose themselves to a different culture, but it will also help them in their future careers.

“We need more people who have a cultural awareness,” Bennett said. “Just being a tutor or a friend, or just helping someone with their conversation skills, that goes a long way.”