Students from Mexico to spend two weeks at UNT learning English in language immersion program
DENTON (UNT), Texas -- Watching reruns of “Friends” won’t just be a lazy way to beat the heat for some students at the University of North Texas this month.
These students, who will be visiting from the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico at Toluca, or UAEM, will be closely watching short clips from the popular NBC sitcom as part of their English as a Second Language classes. They will answer questions about what they believe will happen on the episode to practice different verb tenses and American conversation.
The UAEM students will be attending the annual ESL Summer Institute hosted by UNT’s Department of Linguistics and Technical Communication. Scheduled this year for July 14-28, the institute provides participants with a unique opportunity to increase their fluency in English through cultural immersion and social interaction — everything from asking a Denton business owner about the price per ounce of frozen yogurt during a scavenger hunt and playing word games like Scrabble to having dinner in homes of Denton residents.
The 58 UAEM students, who will be accompanied by 18 faculty and staff members, will spend three hours each weekday morning in ESL classes with students of their same proficiency level. In the afternoon, they’ll attend two-hour workshops on different interests, including performing arts, oral presentation skills, and business English. The workshops will include students of all English proficiency levels. Recreational activities in the evening and on weekends, including field trips to other parts of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, are also part of the institute.
Because the institute focuses on English immersion, the UAEM students will be required to only speak English most hours of the day.
“We tailor the curriculum in the classrooms so that students can do the activities and learn more English as quickly as possible,” said Dustin Aguilar, a UNT graduate students and instructor to the UAEM students.
Aguilar, who is earning his master’s degree in English as a Second Language, will be teaching Level 3 students, who have intermediate English comprehension. He said he wanted to teach the UAEM students for a chance to teach native Spanish speakers.
“I am Hispanic, and I have a real affinity for Latin American culture,” he said. “I can also be creative in the class. At Level 3, students are starting to have basic conversations in English, and you can give instructions in English and have them understood pretty easily.”
Aguilar said the students in his class will be in groups of two or three for most activities to practice English conversations. In addition to discussing the “Friends” clips, Aguilar’s students will make lists in certain categories, like things they would want to have with them on a desert island, and practice English by ranking them in order of importance.
Liz Hopper, a master’s student in technical communication at UNT, will teach the business English workshop, helping students to write tailored resumés and cover letters for specific jobs. The students will also learn about U.S. business culture.
“We understand some students may have vocabulary issues, but we’ll still discuss the fact that Americans tend to not like silence when they’re sitting with someone, and how to make small talk and topics to avoid,” she said. “We’ll also do some role playing, with students practicing making phone calls to inquire about jobs and interviewing skills.
Hopper is also organizing the UAEM students’ conversation partners. Each Thursday evening, the students will meet individually or in small groups with native English speakers — UNT students — to discuss specific topics for an hour.
The Department of Linguistics and Technical Communication began the ESL Summer Institute in 2008 at the request of administrators at UAEM, which has had a connection to UNT since 2002. Faculty members and students from both campuses collaborate on academic programs and in research projects in materials science, environmental science, physics and other fields. UNT and UAEM also both have offices to provide information to students and faculty members about research projects and academic opportunities at the two campuses.