A Collaborative Effort to Cross Cultures and Support
Second Language Acquisition in the Workplace
The mission of the Language and Culture Mentoring Program is to reach across cultures to support those who wish to improve both their second language skills and their understanding of cultures. The overall goal is to support diversity in the workplace at the University of Iowa
The basis of the program is to offer a partnership in learning, with a focus on the participants coming from two distinct cultures/first languages. Both parties will offer their language support and cultural knowledge equally during the one-hour session.
Examples of Existing Collaborations
Presently, two people in the pilot program are meeting twice a month on campus to exchange language and culture. A staff person from Columbia is meeting with a Human Resources employee who is studying Spanish. One half of the hour is spent working on English improvement skills, and the other half of the hour is used working on Spanish improvement skills. Cultural points are exchanged in the flow of dialogue.
Another example of partners is a Chinese University employee exchanging language and culture with a Human Resources employee. The Chinese partner is seeking to improve her English skills while the HR employee is seeking to expand her knowledge of China.
Suggestion/Ideas for Partners
- Divide your hour of time equally between languages—decide how best to do this at the beginning of your partnership.
- Allow ideas and suggestions to emerge from the dialogues. For instance, events and activities that occur on campus and in the community may interest or be of value to your partner.
- Make new word lists as you talk or beforehand. Text or email the new words to your partner afterward. Write your new vocabulary in a notebook or journal for reviewing.
- Your meeting place can facilitate conversation. Meeting in the lounge of the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center can lead to themes revolving around life/work balance. You could also meet at a University or community event, or participate in an activity together as part of your exchange.
- If a person has a special request, such as learning idioms, Staff Language and Culture Services can help with materials. We have many language sources and materials to help you with your collaboration.
- Occasionally bring objects that represent or explain your culture as a discussion theme with your partner. Imagine what may bring insight into the culture.
- Try working with themes: holidays, food, family, customs, values, vacation spots, sports, hobbies, history, etc.
How to Get Involved
Contact the Staff Language and Culture Services Office and fill out an application of interest Mentor Application. We will try to match you with a person who fits your needs! Also, if you have any questions about this program or any of our other services, please feel free to contact us and we will help you.
The University of Iowa prohibits discrimination in employment, educational programs and activities on the basis of race, national origin, color, creed, religion, sex, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or associational preference. The University also affirms its commitment to providing equal opportunities and equal access to University facilities. For additional information on nondiscrimination policies, contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, 319-335-0705 (voice) and 319-335-0697 (text), 202 Jessup Hall, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1316.