November 28, 2018
BYU-Pathway Worldwide offers a unique volunteer program that partners fluent English-speaking mentors with non-native English-speaking PathwayConnect students to help develop English skills. They practice English conversation skills by meeting for 30 minutes once a week for 12 consecutive weeks.
At a BYU-Idaho devotional, Doug Watson, the school’s Facilities Management Services director, shared how his experience as a speaking partner for a PathwayConnect student in Mexico positively impacted his life. Read his story for a glimpse of PathwayConnect through the eyes of a speaking partner.
Becoming a speaking partner
Several years ago, when PathwayConnect was starting out and they introduced the speaking partner program, I was intrigued. I was serving on my stake high council and was assigned to oversee PathwayConnect responsibilities, so I signed up online to be a speaking partner. I was a little nervous, but then I got my first speaking partner assignment: A student named Jacobo Terron Vega— Jacob for short.
Getting to know my speaking partner
Jacob lived in Mexico City and was married with three children. He spoke some English but needed help to become more fluent. I was assigned to help him learn English by discussing the spiritual aspects of the PathwayConnect curriculum. We began to meet via video conferencing every week.
We learned about each other’s lives and became very comfortable speaking with each other each week. As time progressed, Jacob’s English progressed immensely. Even his wife would join us occasionally to say hello and speak a little English. I had the privilege of being Jacob’s speaking partner for his full year in PathwayConnect. I gained a very dear friendship with Jacob. As his completion of PathwayConnect approached, I felt sad knowing our meetings would end, but I was very happy for him and proud of the progress he had made.
Jacob helped me gain a stronger testimony
As part of my assignment on the high council, we were occasionally asked to give a report of our responsibilities. I thought it would be a great idea to share my experience with Jacob. I decided to ask the stake president what he thought about video conferencing with Jacob and having him bear his testimony in English to our high council. The stake president agreed.
The next Sunday morning in our high council room, Jacob joined us via video from Mexico City. He bore his testimony in English and expressed his love to all of us. The Spirit bore powerful witness to 16 grown men, who were all moved to tears.
The very next Saturday session I had with Jacob, he asked if his family could do something for my family. As we gathered around my iPad, Jacob’s wife and children proceeded to sing the first verse of “I Am a Child of God” to us in English. That moment is burned on my heart. My testimony of the gospel grew from that experience.
Doug Watson’s experience as a speaking partner for Jacob is only one of many inspiring stories that show blessings of the speaking partner program. Their story portrays more than just teaching and learning a language –– it is also a story of mutual friendship and service.
English, like any language, can be difficult to learn. But as the “universal language,” English sets people up for better opportunities educationally, socially, economically, and more. Take the opportunity and see for yourself how this experience can positively impact you and another person by learning more about speaking partners today!
This article was adapted from Doug Watson’s BYU-Idaho devotional address, given on March 14, 2017.