English Corner Provides a Place to Practice English Conversation, Meet New Friends
by Evandro De Oliveira Niero
(An International Scholar from the WashU Medical School writes about his experiences participating in and helping organize English Corner, a free program offered by the English Language Programs, where international students and scholars meet every week for informal English conversation practice.)
English Corner is not exclusive to St. Louis. Other cities and countries have their own groups. Ours started in 2014 when Lili Pei, a Chinese woman, moved from Chicago to Saint Louis. According to Lili, English Corner in Chicago helped her to open her mouth to communicate in a different language. In Saint Louis, Lili felt the necessity to keep coming to the English Corner, but it did not exist here. She wanted to help people from countries where English is not the native language to be confident enough to communicate. It seems fate wanted her to meet Tricia Conner, an American English teacher from Saint Louis. Together, and with the support of the OISS at WashU, Lili and Tricia founded the English Corner in Saint Louis.
According to Lili, “the central aspect of the English Corner program is that it does not seek to simply help others to improve their English. Rather, its primary concern is to initiate a process that leads to the creation of communities characterized by strong bonds of friendship, reciprocity and mutual support, encouragement of cultural expression, and meaningful dialogue in a collective search for truth.” English Corner is not a place with English classes; it is not a place at all. English Corner is a group of people that learn how to share their thoughts with words in a country that is not their native land. More than that, at the English Corner you can learn how to live with different people and enjoy the best of different cultures.
I confess that when I first came to English Corner I was looking for help. I knew about it months before I first came, but I only decided to go because I realized I needed help to speak in public. There, I met people from different countries, many of them with the same problem, others with different ones. Sherry, also from China said, “This is my first time in a new country, with limited language skills and no friends around. English Corner saved my life, offering me the opportunity to practice English and make new friends.” According to Masaru, from Japan, “English Corner is a place to meet new people, especially for those who are away from family and old friends,” and that is true.
I can say I made friends, and friends with very different backgrounds. I have listened to details about other countries that I could never have imagined before. And our friendship is not limited to the Thursday night sessions. We also have a lot of fun together on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, whenever and wherever the fun is. Some people just come and go, as not everybody stays in the US for too long, but we have regular people like Valeria (Italian), Nelly (from France), Xuan (Chinese) and Tomo (Japanese), and people that suddenly do not have time to come to English Corner regularly anymore, but keep hanging out with us on weekends like Francesca (Italy), Kesavan (India), Keiko and Yuji (Japan) and Rosana (Argentina). We go to concerts, to the Botanical Garden, have birthday parties, have baby showers, explore caverns, etc.
Of course, English Corner is also a moment when you can ask questions about English grammar and pronunciation, and Tricia is great helping us with that. She also organizes the sessions, so we have a different topic to discuss every week. If you ask Tricia why she decided to come every week to meet us, she will readily answer, “My world is larger and richer for knowing the friends who come. And what amazing, intelligent, fun people! That helps me keep growing. And we have a lot of fun together, too”.
I am just the guy that sends weekly e-mails, helping the way I can. I decided to join the English Corner to improve my English and I gained so much more. I gained confidence, but more than that, I gained a bunch of international friends and 2 hours during my week when I can relax and learn at the same time. English Corner became so important to me that maybe I can establish a Portuguese Corner when I am back in Brazil. Just because there is nothing wrong about learning, making friends and gaining confidence at the same time.
English Corner is open to all WUSTL international students and scholars, who are invited to participate in free, informal English conversation practice. No RSVP is necessary. Feel free come check it out at one of the times/locations listed below or contact the English Language Programs at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information:
- On the Danforth Campus, English Corner meets each Monday, 4:30-6:30 p.m., in the library (second floor) at Stix International House.
- On the Medical Campus, English Corner meets each Thursday, 6:15-8:15 p.m., at Kaldi’s Coffee in the Farrell Learning & Teaching Center at 520 South Euclid (near the Central West End MetroLink station).