As part of the Student Engagement programming in the Library, a Conversation Club was created in 2014 to provide practice and interaction space for SAIT students and community members learning the English language.
The Conversation Club, which is run by club facilitators Pablo Zanetta and Janis Rapchuk of the SAIT library staff, meets Mondays and Thursdays from 5-6 p.m.
“The goal is twofold,” said Zanetta.
“To provide a practice and interaction space for SAIT students and community members learning the English language, and to introduce participants to the library’s resources, staff and space,” he said.
Zanetta graduated from the SAIT Library Information Technology program in 2008 and started working at the Reg Erhardt Library in 2009 as part of the Evening and Weekend team.
Zanetta said his status as a first-generation immigrant to Canada prompted him to join this project.
Spanish is his first mother tongue and his love for languages also influenced him to be a part of this project.
Zanetta said he also wanted to be of assistance to SAIT students.
“I had travelled, so other cultures interested me,” said Zanetta.
“But I also knew what it was like when people can’t understand what you’re saying,” he said.
On average the attendance is about 5-7 participants per club meeting, with the most being 20 participants in a day.
The conversations take place in the library, in the MC008 classroom, which can take up to 30 participants.
“The reception of the conversation club has been generally quite good,” said Zanetta.
“We always have regular participants and regular requests for more sessions,” he said.
“I think mostly we want to expand the number of sessions if possible,” Zanetta said.
Luis Ojeda, one of the participants in the Conversation Club, moved from Venezuela to Calgary last spring.
Ojeda who is currently doing the English Language Foundations (ELF) program in SAIT, hopes to enter the IT program once he’s done in December.
“Right now I’m focused on perfecting my English,” said Ojeda.
Ojeda said it’s easier for him to read English than it is to have a conversation.
“I joined the conversation club because I want to improve how I speak,” Ojeda said.
“Writing isn’t a problem but communicating has always been tough,” he said.
Ojeda said they talk about anything and everything at the conversation club.
These conversations include things on sports, weather, food and education.
Right now I’m focused on perfecting my English. – Luis Ojeda
Ojeda said these conversations have helped him learn about Canadian culture.
“I have been able learn about some Canadian cultures and it has been quite pleasing,” he said.
Ojeda believes language is the key and this small class is where he can tackle that challenge, where a sense of belonging can be nurtured.