Students cashing in for conversations

In Features
Eliot Cossaboom (left) a linguistics major, has a conversation with Tom Tran, an international student from Vietnam who is majoring in civil engineering. (Adriana Najera / Daily Titan)

For students seeking a flexible and interesting job, Cal State Fullerton is offering a chance to make friends and interact with other students from different cultures.

The American Language Program gives Cal State Fullerton students the opportunity to become part of the Conversation Partner Program.

The Conversation Partner Program allows ALP students who come from all over the world, to meet and practice conversational English with a personally selected conversational partner, who is also a CSUF student.

“I feel fortunate to work in a program that is a bridge for both international students as well as CSUF students to meet, exchange ideas, learn about other cultures, become more globally aware and in the end become more self-aware,” said Danielle Majam-Finch, coordinator of the Conversation Partner Program, in an email.

The position pays workers $9.50 per hour for classroom work and to have conversations sharing their culture with colleagues, Finch said.

Finch, who has been coordinator of the program for four years, has seen the program flourish from as little as 13 conversation partners to about 50 today. She believes the Conversation Partner Program is important because it gives the students something extra in terms of practicing their conversational English skills and gives them a way of interacting with people they probably would have never met.

The program was started to give international students an avenue beyond academics to learn real conversational English. “To learn about American life, university life, culture, the differences, gender roles. All these different things that they may have questions about,” Finch said.

Conversation partners are able to meet with up to two students, twice a week for 50 minutes, according to the student policies. The American Language Program student must first select their conversation partner through the online website, and email him/her to set up a time and place to meet. The convenience of it all, is that the one-on-one meeting is planned around both the student and partners class schedule, and is limited to meetings only on campus. Once it is confirmed, students may meet with their conversation partner for the entire semester.

Finch explained that she receives over a hundred applications for open positions, all from different colleges on campus.

This job used to only attract teachers interested in teaching English as a second language but now has students from several different majors including kinesiology, psychology and sociology, Finch said.

“These are individuals who really enjoy and are open to learning about other cultures, and are hoping to offer something in return,” she said.

American Language Program student and economics major, Nicole Kang describes her conversation partner, Carlina Chung, as an earnest and kind, who is patient with her.

“My conversation partner helped me to correct my pronunciation, fix my writing and tell me how to use some words in the right way,” Kang said. “I have been learning a lot of knowledge from her.”

Conversation partner, Eliot Cossaboom, linguistics graduate student, discussed that with some students his conversations are more friend-like, where they talk about social things, and things going on in the students life. Where on the other hand, some students prefer to keep the conversation more oriented on work for their classes. It is entirely up to the students, as to what they want to talk about, Cossaboom said.

“It’s really neat to see people from a completely different culture who are within a couple years of my age, its sort of like having all of the traveling come to you, rather than you having to go out and find it,” Cossaboom said.

For further information about the Conversation Partner Program or to sign up as a Conversation Partner, visit their website at or call (657)278-8293.

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