Community Conversation: One Step Out of Comfort Zone

Authored by:
Badr Macbahi

Badr Macbahi

One of the most difficult aspects of learning a foreign language is speaking. It takes a lot of self-confidence to face all the anxiety that comes with this new experience. The community conversation task, where students must go into the community and speak to locals using the target language "Darija," is a crucial component of the CIEE Global Navigators Program. Given that English is not my first language and I have experienced situations similar to this one, I am of the opinion that the best way to improve your communication skills is to put yourself in uncomfortable situations, despite how awkward this may occasionally seem.

During community conversations, students engage in authentic conversations with locals, using the vocabulary, language, and functions taught in class that day. The community conversations take place from Monday to Thursday. Each week, program leaders facilitate and grade students based on their performance while conversing with locals in the target language. This task is completed in three stages: preparation, execution, and debrief. The first stage focuses on helping students understand the language they will use outside of the classroom through role-playing activities. The second stage, execution, is when students go out into the community and begin asking and answering questions from locals. The final step is the debrief. It is essentially a group discussion of some of the difficulties or insights gained from the community conversation task.

This is what one of our students, Baqer Jalil says about the community conversation: "so far, I've gotten closer and closer to my goal, which is only speak Darija at home and outside. I've been able to pick up on what people are saying despite having trouble speaking it at times. However, I'm starting to talk to people about how they are and who they are, as well as about myself, and I'm learning to bargain."

Another student, Mia Williams, describes the community conversation task as follows: "the Pledge to Remain in the target language is going fairly well. At times there are moments where communication in Morocco is difficult because of the language barrier but I try my hardest to ask questions or respond in Arabic. At first I was scared but as I continued to do more community conversations, I built up more confidence and eventually got used to doing them. Also, being around my peers and my program leader helped a lot because I knew I could count on them to assist me if I needed help. Now whenever it's time to do community conversation I get excited to talk to people in the community and use the information I learned in class that day to help me communicate with them."

"Learning another language is not only learning different words for the same things, but learning another way to think about things." Flora Lewis.



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