As we open our Tuesday evening Zoom call, the screen populates with the faces of twenty or so students. About half are international students from Vancouver; the others join from around the world. All are eager to practice their English, chat with each other, and engage with that night’s conversation theme.
The FOCUS English Conversation Club launched in February, modeled after The Speaking Club. Students identify themselves by level and participate in three 20-minute sessions of one-on-one conversation in breakout rooms. We post our conversation theme and questions ahead of time, so even students with lower English levels can join in.
The goal of the conversation club: to empower international students by creating a comfortable setting for practicing English, and to be a bridge to other resources.
As an ESL teacher who also learned English as a second language, I find that many international students wish they had more opportunities to practice speaking. Students come to Canada with high hopes of becoming fluent in just a few years. While they find an abundance of opportunities to improve their reading or listening, speaking opportunities are surprisingly rare. Students feel their English isn’t good enough or think they are wasting someone’s time. A conversation club is a safe place to freely speak and learn English, regardless of level, with someone who is willing to listen.
Our conversation club provides a platform to share about other resources, including workshops, social gatherings, FOCUS Club events, church events, and Bible studies. We end each meeting with announcements and post opportunities on social media.
The evening includes conversation questions that relate to faith, spiritual topics, and big questions of life, and we see God using these questions to reveal those He is drawing near. This summer, when a student asked about faith, I was able to share the gospel; you never know what kind of work God is doing in people’s hearts. Our job is to create opportunities, to be ready to share the gospel though our words and lives, and to invite people to Jesus.
If you’d like to participate in an ISMC ESL ministry, please connect with us through ismc.ca/volunteer.
ISMC has a FOCUS ENGLISH Discord Server that connects up various ISMC ESL ministries across the country. Feel free to check it out or to invite an international student you know to join: https://discord.gg/kSS4HDXDHA