Senior missionary-run English program builds confidence for second language learners, say international students

Written by: 
Zeek Cheng

Whether it be helping students with conversational English, class presentations, or talking about personal concerns, The Voice program serves as a resource for international students to speak English, according to students interviewed.


Started more than two years ago, the program allows students to come with their own agenda on what they want to learn during the appointment, according to senior missionary Sister Stephenson, a volunteer tutor from Pennsylvania.


She said, “We help students with their conversational English. Almost every time, they would say, ‘I’m going to read. Please correct my pronunciation.’ We also define the unfamiliar words for them.”


Tomoyuki Akiyama, a sophomore from Japan studying finance, said, “It’s a great opportunity to speak to native English speakers.”  Through consistently attending the program, Akiyama said he gained confidence speaking to Americans.


When asked to share a learning experience from the program, Yi Ng, a freshman from Malaysia studying elementary education, said, “The sister missionaries are friendly and easy to talk to. I got to learn more conversational English and slang, which I couldn’t learn in class. Also, I like that they gave us snacks during the session.”


Rodger Jin, a senior from South Korea studying biology education, said, “It’s a perfect program for international students at BYUH. Through practicing with the sister missionaries, I gained confidence because they gave me good advice.”


A sophomore in arts and web design, Eri Miyagi from Japan shared when she first came to BYUH, she was so scared to speak English. “But the sisters kindly encouraged and taught me.”


Some students attended the program nearly every day and became good friends with the sisters.  Akiyama said, “We talk about anything. I even talk about my life and personal concerns. I feel like they can answer my personal questions because they are so spiritual.”


Jin also said, “I trust them with their advice because they are older and have more personal experiences and wisdom.”


The program has risen in popularity; the sign-up sheet gets filled up quickly. Jin expressed, “I like to go every day, but there are so many people signing up. I can only do three to four times a week.”


Miyagi added, “Some weeks when I come, there’s no available slot open.”


Jin said he hopes there will be more volunteers to help with the program. And Ng said she wishes there would be evening appointments available.


Regardless of all the help one can receive, Sister Stephenson reminded students, “I don’t have a degree in linguistics, I only have the knowledge as a native English speaker. We are instructed to tell the students that we are not their English tutor and we can’t fully assist with their assignments.”


For international students who struggle with English, Miyagi suggested, “This program can build your confidence in English speaking. The sisters don’t care about you making mistakes, they care about your improvement.”


Akiyama added, “Even though you’re done with the EIL program, it’s always good to have extra help.”


The Voice program is available for sign up from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Students can sign up 30 minutes to an hour at a time. The sign-up sheet is located on the table outside the of Student Leadership and Activities office hallway, which is also where the tutors and students meet.

Date Published: 
Thursday, May 3, 2018
Last Edited: 
Thursday, May 3, 2018