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Frequently Asked Questions about Conversation Partners Program

Who can use Conversation Partner Services?

All international students and students from Intensive English Language Programs (IELP) may participate.

If you are an alumnus/a or postdoctoral fellow, please email Elisabeth at Although alumni, fellows, and staff can’t use this service, we may be able to refer you to similar services on a freelance basis.

How is a Conversation Partner different from a Writing Tutor?
The Conversation Partners Program focuses on speaking and listening in English, as well as developing vocabulary and speaking skills for various contexts, such as presentations, interviews, and every day social situations. Unlike Writing Tutoring, which focuses on a specific written assignment, Conversation Partners are free to discuss many different issues that are not necessarily related to a class or assignment. A typical session will include asking and answering questions about different cultural and social topics, as well as informal instruction in grammar or vocabulary related to speech.

How often can I meet with a Conversation Partner?
You can meet with a conversation partner once a day and up to six times a week (four drop-ins and two appointments). You are also allowed to have a writing tutor session and a Conversation Partner session in a single day, as long as you have not exceeded the allowable writing tutor sessions per week.

You may also choose to have a standing appointment with a Conversation Partner once a week. Standing appointments will be granted at the coordinator’s discretion, with first preference given to students who are referred by a professor or have needs specific to a particular course or project. Please see Elisabeth or Jen at the Writing Center to arrange standing appointments.

I want to become a Conversation Partner. How do I apply?
Conversation Partners are usually hired on a year-to-year basis. Available openings for Conversation Partners are shared on various listservs at the beginning or end of each semester.

Ideal Conversation Partners have the following qualifications:

  • Current or recent enrollment in a language course, or other extended experience with language learning
  • Experience tutoring, teaching, or assistant teaching English language learners, or having experience as an English language learner yourself
  • Interest in (and respect for) other cultures
  • Experience living, working, or studying abroad

Does the Conversation Partners program accept volunteers?
Yes, we accept volunteers on a case by case basis, primarily for graduate students. See our employment page for more information.

Can I meet in a group Conversation Partner session?
Students who wish to meet in pairs must make an appointment. Students coming in pairs for drop-ins will not be accepted.

Appointments may not exceed more than 3 students, and only if those 3 students are present to practice an oral assignment or presentation, or have pre-approval from Elisabeth or Lorraine.

Can I bring writing assignments to my Conversation Partner?
The short answer is no. Our Conversation Partners are not trained to be tutors, so they cannot provide feedback on writing assignments or make any kind of mark-ups on your papers. However, they can help you with reading comprehension related to course readings or assignments, discuss ideas, or focus on particular grammar that was mentioned in a writing session. For example, if a writing tutor briefly mentioned article usage, you can get further practice on this subject in a Conversation Partner session.

If you have any further questions about Conversation Partners, email Elisabeth at