Conversation hour builds English language skills

International and American students gathered during the International Conversation Hour on Sept. 20 for an afternoon of multi-cultural exchange.

The Associates in Cultural Exchange (A.C.E.) Language Institute, which offers English classes for non-native speakers, sponsored the event in SUB 168, during which small, diverse groups formed and conversed about topics such as food and family.

“The goal of the two hours was to get [international] students talking and interacting with American students,” said Mary Ulrich, Program Director of A.C.E. Language Institute. “They learn academic English well, but conversational English — that’s what they need to practice.”

Omar Assirri, a civil engineering student from Saudi Arabia, talked about his experience in Bozeman so far. “I’ve met new friends, seen a new culture, and that’s really good,” he said. “Bozeman is like my village in Saudi Arabia — beautiful and natural. I love it.”

Faiez Alananzi, a chemical engineering student also from Saudi Arabia, said about learning a new language, “English is easy, but practice is hard.”

Marketing major Rebecca Martin, an American, remarked in response to the evening, “This is great; it needs to happen more often!” She explained that it was a good way for international students to engage with Americans, and vice versa.

While the International Conversation Hour has taken place at MSU in the past, it disappeared during the last few years. However, Mary Ulrich says that A.C.E. plans to continue hosting conversation hours. They will happen “more often if it goes well,” she said during the event, “and right now, I’d say it’s going really well!”