Conversation Groups

Many LINC students who are at the beginners level need additional language support outside their classroom setting.  After learning the grammar and tenses in the classroom, this group setting gives time to students to practise using those rules in a setting that is more like real life.  These groups foster independent learning skills 
while providing an enjoyable social setting.


Cultural clubs in Penticton are coming forward with activities and short sessions to introduce young children to their native cultures and enable them to learn more than one language.  One such club is the Japanese Cultural club, which is lead by an immigrant from Japan who has married into a Caucasian family.  She approached us and we have partnered with her to offer Japanese activities and reading sessions once a month.  Catered towards Japanese families and their children, this session is focused on providing basic Japanese speaking and reading skills to second-generation immigrant children. During the sessions, she reads stories, plays games and teaches basic Japanese to young children and non-Japanese speaking parents.

Immigrant parents from interracial marriages are keen that their children learn both cultures and languages (besides English/French).  This club provides opportunities to develop an awareness of and an appreciation for other cultures.  Some parents remain diligent in helping their children value all aspects of both their heritages.  They put in extra effort to enable children to positively identify with the duality of their backgrounds and to learn how to confidently handle those awkward, “What are you?” questions from curious playmates.

In February of 2015, SOICS began hosting Spanish Club meetings on a monthly basis.  The gathering provides an informal social setting, which allows people to meet newcomers as well as local residents and socialize in Spanish.  During these informal sessions people to come together to meet new individuals/families, share insights about their cultures, food, festivals, etc. This group also gives way to fostering new friendships with individuals from diverse backgrounds.

It is open to anyone who originates from a Spanish community, wants to learn Spanish or is simply looking to make connections in the community.  The idea is to provide an informal setting for families to interact with each other and promote friendships between different groups.  Participants become acquainted with one another on a more intimate level and get a chance to expand their social circles to include people of different backgrounds.  This awareness helps us become more sensitive to each other’s need and put forth extra effort toward making newcomers to any situation feel welcomed and included no matter what their background.  The interactions and information exchange during some of the cultural clubs provide some real world examples to dispute particular racial myths.

Attendees bring food to contribute to the potluck that individuals, families and their children could enjoy while getting to know other Spanish-speaking people in their community.  The idea was developed by one of SOICS’ volunteers who moved from Kamloops and was very active in their Spanish Club.

In this group, clients practice their learning skills in order to prepare for upcoming exams such as IELTS or LPI or TOEFL. During the session, the tutor assists the participants in developing fundamental skills such as time management, reading for comprehension, note taking, and coping with anxiety. To strengthen the essential learning skills, tutors give tips on adequate understanding of the theoretical perspectives of the exam/concepts and how to apply this understanding of one part of the exam to another. It has become clear that some students try to maintain their old approach to studies, which may involve them choosing to memorize materials when it may be more appropriate to work analytically or interpretively; this in turn may lead to increased anxiety and a chance of "blanking out" in exams. The tutors help the participants set realistic goals for the exam and determine a daily amount of time to review past assignments. Often, past assignments highlight key course concepts and offer example questions, which they use to test their progress and determine their learning objectives. These learning strategies have been working for students as they continue to request more sessions.

Immigrant youth need activities and groups where they can play board games. The selected volunteer is an immigrant himself who has the skills of encouraging youth to develop gameplay strategies, allows the players to practice their negotiation skills, and become more confident speakers. Through the game of scrabble, he engaged the youth in exercising their brain cells by improving their memory and keeping track of what is happening in the game.

With each word, he also encouraged them to create a story and offer challenges and solutions as the story develops.  These activities do not involve staring at a computer screen or a smartphone, which these youth are glued to. These sessions are generally organised during summer break.

In this Conversation Group, clients focused on practicing/studying for the IELTS exam.  IELTS is one of the standardized tests that is accepted as evidence of English language proficiency by Immigration, Refugee & Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for citizenship applications and by multiple academic institutions for higher/further education and professional accreditation.  IELTS includes speaking, listening, reading, and writing components and is available in two formats – Academic and General Training. Admission to undergraduate and postgraduate courses is based on the results of the Academic test whereas the General Training format focuses on basic survival skills in broad social and workplace contexts.  The group practices their conversational English and learns new words in a casual setting.

Most of the participants are from the LINC classes, Live-in-care givers or with the mentorship program. It is offered through the Penticton Office.

This group comes together once a week and focuses its energy on practising pronunciation where clients meet with a volunteer who is a speech therapist to work on their pronunciations.

Many native speakers often think that a second language English speaker has a low level of fluency if their pronunciation is incorrect.  This can cost newcomers a job, a relationship or just be plain frustrating.  Another reason we selected to host this group is to improve clarity in communication skills.  Communication, especially in today’s multicultural setting is so important. A pronunciation mistakes could impede newcomers from being understood in their local community.  Experts have indicated that the earlier an immigrant focus and master the basics of English pronunciation, the faster he/she becomes fluent.  Our ear is so important in this process and focusing on clearly hearing and then speaking the sounds of English leads to large gains in fluency later on.

In this particular Conversation Group, clients practice phonics and improve their vocabulary, etc. We carefully selected our mentors for this group who understand the relationship between sounds and their spellings. The goal of phonics instruction is to teach students the most common sound-spelling relationships so that students can decode, or sound out, words. This decoding ability is a crucial element in reading success.

Most newcomer readers, who have limited English speaking skills tend to rely so heavily on one reading strategy, such as the use of context and picture clues, that they exclude other strategies that might be more appropriate.  To become skilled, fluent readers, learners need to have a repertoire of strategies to draw on. These strategies include using the knowledge of sound-spelling relationships — in other words, an understanding of phonics.  In addition, research has shown that skilled readers attend to almost every word in a sentence and process the letters that compose each of these words.

Most of the participants are from the beginners LINC class.

This Conversation group is catered towards young children from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds – born overseas or here in Canada – who are enrolled in Kindergarten. These children are raised up in homes where English is not spoken as a first language therefore this group activity focuses on improving their English vocabulary.  For these children beginning school is not only about adjusting to school and its routines, but also about doing so in a largely unfamiliar language.  Participating students play games that utilize memory and sound out words.

To join one of our conversation clubs, please contact us: