Peer Language Exchange Program

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Billie Ng, Language Training Institute (LTI)

Project team: Claudia Hein, Noriko Omae, Monica Escudero, LTI, and Kelsi Wright, research assistant

Timeframe: September 2014 to August 2015

Funding: $3,800

Course addressed: Students in Chinese, German, Japanese, and Spanish courses will be part of the Peer Language Exchange Program.

Final Report: View Billie Ng's final project report (PDF)

Description: The SFU campus is becoming increasingly more multilingual and multicultural.  International students are an invaluable asset to SFU.  One way to further benefit from the presence of international students is to help them connect to the SFU community by creating a Peer Language Exchange Program.  Students learning an additional language usually lack an authentic language environment to practice in.  Meeting with fluent speakers of the target language would not only help the students learn the language, it would also provide a more holistic understanding of the target culture.       

This Program will create opportunities for English as an Additional Language (EAL) students to meet and exchange with students learning a foreign language.  The Program aims to: (1) facilitate meaningful language and cultural exchange, (2) connect participants across ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, (3) foster open-mindedness and reduce prejudice, (4) enhance participants’ intercultural awareness, and (5) help realize SFU’s goals of engaging the world.

Student participating in the program will be paired up for an on-campus (or online) meeting for 40 minutes every week for 10 weeks.  Instructors of the target foreign language will provide an outline for the weekly conversation (e.g. vocabulary, sentences and discussion topics).  The first 20 minutes will be in the target foreign language.  The second 20 minutes will be in English on the same topic.  Participants will be asked to fill out a questionnaire after each meeting to provide feedback on the Peer Language Exchange Program.

Findings of this project will be used to extend the project into more languages.  This program will help students connect, build a more engaging SFU community, and provide a meaningful university experience for students.

Questions addressed:

  • Does this project enrich the SFU experience of EAL students and students of language courses?  Does this project help LTI students improve their listening and speaking skills in a foreign language?  Does it help EAL students and Canadian students learn more about each other’s culture?  Does it help students connect to the SFU community?
  • What are the best organizing/implementation practices for this program?  What works and what should be avoided in future implementations?
  • What can instructors learn from this project?  What does this project tell us about language learning?  Should it be a regular component of LTI courses?  Would it change how LTI courses are taught?  How can the authenticity of these conversations be used for language pedagogy?

Knowledge sharing: The project will be shared at monthly LTI meetings and end-of-semester seminars.  Other dissemination will include workshops, conferences and with language education colleagues outside SFU.

Ng, B. (2015, December). From Blackboard Collaborate to Google Hangout to language tandem: Creating authentic experiences to enhance language learning. Presentation at the International Society for Chinese Language Teaching 12th International Conference: Theories and Practices, Shanghai, CN.

Keywords: Language learning, online materials, video, animation, online quizzes, online exercises, individualized learning, independent learning, questionnaires, course retention, Blended learning, flipped classrooms, Mandarin Chinese, technology, language instruction.