Winter 2021 Conversation Circles will be offered ONLINE
Virtual Conversation Circles are designed to create connections among international students and scholars at U-M, beat the isolation, and boost morale during this difficult time. Each circle consists of about four participants and is led by a facilitator, a highly fluent English language speaker. Participants meet via an online platform which is convenient and available to all participants in a given circle to talk about any topic of interest, play games, and share pictures and videos.
During this unprecedented time of self-isolation you get a chance to meet new people and feel connected with the UM community. Informal conversations on a variety of topics and games proved for a lot of speaking practice in English, learning about other people’s experience of staying active and connected, and sharing your own thoughts and ideas.
Winter 2021 Circles run for ten weeks: February 8 - April 18
*Note that there are no meetings on February 24th and March 23rd due to the University-wide Wellness Days*
Participant registration: February 1 - February 12
We are happy that you are considering joining an ELI Conversation Circle! All current students, scholars, researchers, and post-docs at the University of Michigan are welcome to join.
Conversation Circles are a great way to practice English. You will meet people from around the world and get an insider’s perspective to the USA.
Please read this important information and then sign up for a Circle via the link at the bottom of this page.
- Please only register for ONE Conversation Circle to ensure all interested participants are able to join a circle. Our staff will email participants during the second week of registration if there is room to join multiple circles.
- You must commit to attending all Conversation Circle meetings. Participants who miss more than two meetings or who miss a meeting without notifying their facilitator may be dropped from their Conversation Circle. This is a voluntary program, but the success of a circle depends on regular participation by all members. If your schedule changes so that you can no longer attend your circle, please let us know. We often have waitlists!
- Conversation Circles are only open to current U-M students, scholars, researchers, post-docs, faculty, and staff at the University of Michigan. Spouses, partners, and friends without official U-M status are not included, sorry.
- Conversation Circles are not English lessons! They are an opportunity for casual socializing. They do not follow any lesson plans or grammar books. They are an opportunity for you to use English in a real-life setting: making small talk, ordering food, hanging out with classmates and coworkers. If you would like to work on your grammar, writing, pronunciation, etc., ELI offers courses for this. Please schedule an advising appointment to learn about available ELI courses and resources.
- Conversation Circle facilitators are not teachers or editors. You should not ask them for help with papers or other school work. Instead, please utilize the Graduate Clinics or Speaking and Writing Studio for academic help.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the time committment?
Groups meet for an hour per week, but facilitators may schedule extra events or meetings depending on participant interest.
Can I join more than one group?
Maybe! At the beginning of the registration period please only join one group to ensure that everyone has a chance to join their first-choice conversation circle. However, if there are spaces available, the ELI staff will open registration for multiple groups. You will receive an email during the registration period if multiple group registration is open. Please only sign up for additional groups if you’re sure that you can commit to regularly attending each group.
I’m not taking any classes at the ELI. Can I still participate?
Yes! As long as we have spots available, we welcome all University of Michigan students and visiting scholars.
Can I keep meeting with my old group?
If you would like to continue meeting with a group from last semester, talk to your group leaders and members. Of course, you can always hang out together outside of the conversation circles program, too!
Tips for Successful Language Practice
1. Take Charge Of Your Own Learning
- If you don’t understand something, ask for an explanation immediately — it’s your responsibility to let your facilitator know when something isn’t clear.
- Feel free to ask your partners to repeat, explain or translate when you don’t understand something — this is the whole reason behind this language exchange: for you to be able to follow the conversation and participate!
- Instead of looking up vocabulary words in your electronic dictionary, try asking the other person to explain what the word means in English.
- Ask your partners to slow down if they speak too fast.
- Make an effort to speak out, even if you’re shy.
2. Be Sensitive to Other Circle Members’ Needs
- When speaking English, please keep in mind that you’re doing this so that everyone can practice — encourage everyone to participate, and make sure they can follow the conversation.
- Explain, repeat, write down or translate when necessary, and slow down if other Circle members ask you to.
- If someone says a word that you don’t understand (because of inaccurate pronunciation, for example), just ask them to write it down. Practice pronouncing it as a group, to make sure everyone’s saying it correctly. Pronunciation is important!
- Encourage those who are too shy to speak. For example, you can ask: “What do you think, Lolita? You’ve been very quiet.”
3. Be Considerate
- Speak loudly and clearly — think about how you speak when you’re giving someone your address over the phone.
- Give everyone a chance to speak — don’t monopolize the conversation.
- Develop a listening attitude.
- Allow others their point of view — you can comment, but don’t judge.
- If you have ANY questions or comments, let us know! We try to make Conversation Circles as flexible as possible. If you need to change Circles, let us know. If you haven’t heard from your facilitator, let us know. If you want more time in Conversation Circles, let us know. We are more than happy to make exceptions, make phone calls, and make changes to make you happy… but we have to know what to do!
- You can always e-mail CircleUp-Questions@umich.edu with questions or comments.
(Adapted from MyLanguageExchange.com)