Skip navigation

English Language Center

Degree Programs

Student Life

Conversation Partner Program

The University of Denver's Conversation Partner Program provides interactive and authentic ways for ELC students to meet American and other international students on campus.

The English Language Center (ELC) is a place where students from all around the world come to learn and improve their English. In order to successfully learn a second language, we encourage our students to get real-life practice with native speakers of the language. Our Conversation Partners program is available to all ELC students who wish to further develop their English listening, speaking and conversational skills, as well as gain more cultural awareness.

For native English speakers, the Conversation Partner Program is a great way to learn about other cultures and begin networking internationally while gaining resume-building experience. It is also a great way to prepare before a study abroad experience or upon returning back to the US.

Guidelines for International Students

Guidelines for American Students

In this program, Americans are matched one-on-one (unless otherwise requested) with international students. Specific requests regarding language and gender are accommodated as much as possible. Partners are expected to meet for 1-2 hours a week during each quarter.

Conversation partners determine the time and location of their meetings. Students are expected to meet in public places (anywhere on campus or in Denver), visit cultural events (concerts, plays, exhibitions), go to a sports game, or go shopping.


Apply for the Conversation Partner Program


The program will begin each quarter with a mixer (party) to meet other participants in the program and discover ways that you and your partner can connect. There are regularly scheduled events throughout the quarter to meet up with other campus community members interested in language and cultural exchange.


Conversation Partner Activities and Things to Do

Go to a coffee shop

Check out a campus sports game

Visit the Denver Botanic Gardens, Museums, or Aquarium

Go hiking or for a walk

Explore the 16th St. Mall or Cherry Creek

Visit the historical Molly Brown House downtown

Take a walking tour and look at street art in RiNo

Participate in planned conversation partner activities

Try rock climbing at the Ritchie Center

Go bowling at Lucky Strike

Check out a Lamont Music performance


How to Successfully Communicate with Non-Native English Speakers

Simple, active and present verb tense

Talk slowly and clearly, repeat, use synonyms

Use as many examples and models as possible

Use gestures and facial expressions

Avoid use of slang and idioms

Paraphrasing words, phrases, or sentences

Nonverbal cues (for example: pointing at words, visuals, or pantomiming)

Correction by restating or modeling


Engaging with International Students

Be patient. Try to imagine yourself in their country as a student.

Be sensitive to their cultural perspectives (including cultural thought patterns).

Explain the cultural expectations of American higher education.

Help them to know how to use the library and computer lab.

Give lots of speaking practice.

Speak clearly, naturally and avoid using lots of slang.

Ask students to repeat what you have just said to show understanding.

Use lots of repetition.

Encourage students to make friends outside of class because this will improve their English.

Write down words the student does not know.

Admit it if there is a communication problem: "I don't understand."


General Tips

Don't categorize students. ESL students come from a large variety of backgrounds.

Don't treat students like children. English language proficiency does not indicate intelligence or ability level.

Don't make snap judgments about someone's English skills based only on speaking ability.

Don't be too serious. Make some "small talk" and try to use new vocabulary in a context the students are familiar with.

Don't assume cultural or background knowledge.

Don't just explain something. Use examples instead.

Don't act as if you understand the student if you don't.