Language Exchange Program Set to Resume, Provide Students Cross-Cultural Experiences


Flags inside the student union. (The Daily Utah Chronicle archives)

By Stephanie Hong, News Writer


The Learning Abroad Department at the University of Utah offers opportunities beyond the United States’ borders, but also gives students the chance to learn at home in Salt Lake with experiences like the Language Exchange Program. The program gives students the ability to exchange language and culture with others.

After being suspended for several semesters because of COVID-19, Courtney Johnson, a peer advisor with the Learning Abroad Department at the U, said they plan to resume the LEP in spring 2022.

The program sets native English speakers up with non-native English speakers to develop a partnership and exchange knowledge. According to the program, this allows each person to build language skills in their partner’s language, learn about other cultures and develop tutoring skills.

Students can apply to be a part of the LEP through an online survey. Students can input their native language, what language they are interested in being partnered for and what their level of skill is for the language.

The survey describes the program as a place where “one can practice a language other than their native, learn about another culture, and/or gain tutoring experience.”

U student Vivian Bentley participated in the LEP in spring 2019.

“The language I applied for this program was Chinese,” Bentley said. “I learned not only Chinese but also Chinese culture and new words like slang through regular daily conversations with my partner.”

According to Bentley, she and her partner talked for an hour on the regular basis and taught each language for 30 minutes.

“We met more than once a week, and it helped me maintain my basic Chinese skills,” she said.

Bentley, however, did wish there were more events to meet others in the program.

“Through more events, we could partner with someone we have more in common with,” Bentley said.

Participants have the opportunity to structure their meetings and partnerships however they want. The program acknowledges that “everyone learns and engages differently, so one way might not work for everyone.”

Johnson said the LEP offers students an opportunity for built-in cultural exchange.

“Students can experience both cultural and linguistic backgrounds, including informal speech, that they cannot get just by sitting in classrooms and taking language courses,” Johnson said.

Additionally, Johnson said that depending on the course, extra credit can be granted to students who participate in this program.

She said the Learning Abroad Department is trying to make more students aware that a variety of languages are available for the program and will create a more detailed system within the program.

“Students can create their own language study structure through conversations with partners,” Johnson said. “When it comes to language exchange programs, we don’t have to prepare deep philosophical conversations for language, so we hope that students will participate as much as possible.”

According to the Learning Abroad website, once a student has completed the survey, their office will contact them with their partner’s information. If a partner is available for the student, Learning Abroad will email the participation waiver and will release the partner’s information to the student.

The website also clarifies that applying to the program does not guarantee a partnership, as it is dependent on the availability of the language of choice.

For more information about LEP, visit the Learning Abroad website.


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