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Naomi House English Buddies

What is an English buddy?

Speaking a new language can be scary and awkward, and it can be challenging to find enough opportunities to practice. An English buddy is there to help by engaging in friendly, patient conversation. English buddies are not expected to provide formal ESL instruction, but rather a chance to simply practice communicating.

What should happen during a session?

In your first session, introduce yourself and learn some basic facts about your partner. If your partner has enough English, ask them about their goals in learning English and what they are hoping to get from these sessions.

For beginning English learners, you may wish to work through an ESL book. Alternately, consider or planning a simple activity such as sharing a meal, cooking something, working in the garden, going to the grocery store, or doing other common tasks. Talk with your partner as you go. Sharing an activity helps keep your time together engaging and helps your partner learn vocabulary and phrases that they will need to communicate in their daily lives.

Even for more advanced English learners, activities and field trips can be useful and fun. However, at this stage you could also simply meet for conversation. If so, come prepared with a topic, such as talking about your families, your favorite holiday, foods you like and dislike, differences in your cultures, etc. If the conversation goes in another direction, that is totally fine, but it helps to have a simple plan to fall back on.

Tips for communicating clearly with English learners

  • When needed, enunciate clearly and speak a little slower than usual, but avoid baby talk or raising the volume of your voice

  • Be aware of language that might be difficult for an English learner to understand, such as…

    • Idioms: beat around the bush, go back to the drawing board, etc.

    • Acronyms and abbreviations: DMV, FYI, ASAP

    • Proper nouns (place names, people’s names, etc.)

    • American cultural references

    • Irony or sarcasm

  • Reinforce verbal communication as needed. Try…

    • Rephrasing using different words

    • Using gestures or pantomime

    • Drawing a picture or showing a photo

    • Writing out a word

More ideas and guidance

Check out this detailed guide from another conversation partners program, keeping in mind that some parts may not be relevant for your partner’s context.

ESL classes in Waco

If your partner is eager to progress quickly in English or is asking you for exercises and homework, they may wish to explore one of the free ESL classes offered in Waco.

For those interested in a casual class meeting once or twice a week, your partner could explore Columbus Avenue’s Neighbors International program or ask about current classes at La Puerta.

For those desiring faster progress in a course meeting multiple times per week, MCC’s adult education ESL course is recommended.

Learn more about these options here.

Questions or feedback?

Contact Amber McKinney at (254) 214-4011 or

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