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English Language Support

Whether English is your second or third language, the Student Success Centre offers several services to help English-as-an-Additional-Language (EAL) speakers improve their spoken and written English. We provide the Speakeasy Program (one-on-one support from a volunteer student) and Conversation Circle (group-based support).

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Even more English Language supports are underway for the 2015-2016 school year.
Please check back soon for updated program information.

  • Speakeasy
  • Speakeasy
    Seminar Series
  • Conversation
  • Workshops
  • Writing
  • Resources

Speakeasy Program

The Speakeasy Program is a partnership program aimed at joining English-speaking students with English-as-an-Additional-Language (EAL) students. The goal of the Speakeasy Program is to help EAL students improve their command of English, strengthen discussion skills, and broaden their level of verbal self-expression. The program's secondary goal is to expand knowledge of various cultures and build friendships across the McMaster community.

In order to accomplish these goals, volunteer Peer Language Facilitators are paired with English-as-an-Additional-Language (EAL) persons to establish a friendship and comfortable environment for learning. Pairs often read a newspaper, magazine, academic literature, or a short story together, and discuss pronunciation, idioms, slang, grammar, and vocabulary. Speakeasy typically runs from mid-September to the end of March.

Participants can expect:

  • To meet each other for one hour per week in a location and time agreed upon by both students
  • To bring any literature or material they wish to discuss in their regular meetings
  • To learn about new cultures and make new friends
  • Social events and celebrations each term (fall & winter) for everyone involved in Speakeasy & Conversation Circle!

Program Documents

Speakeasy Application Form (PDF)
Download the Speakeasy Volunteer Manual (PDF)

Speakeasy Office Hours

Day Time Office
Monday 12:30 – 2:00 Mills 213E
Tuesday 10:30 – 1:30 Mills 213E
Thursday  12:00 – 3:00  Mills 213E
Friday 10:00 – 1:00 Mills 213E

Speakeasy Seminar Series

Our Speakeasy volunteers are a vital asset in providing support to EAL students on campus and in making McMaster a global community.  A robust training has been created with 2 primary goals:
1. to build community and capacity to help EAL students and
2. to build leadership and career competencies within each Peer Language Facilitator

Upon attending all 6 sessions, students receive a Certificate of Completion, acknowledging leadership competencies developed.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.

CIBC Hall (3rd Floor of Student Centre, Room 308-309)

Seminar Series Launch

You’ve signed up to volunteer for Speakeasy…Now what?
Meet the community of Speakeasy volunteers. Learn about strategies and resources to use with your EAL partner. This seminar is the first in a series intended to help you help students! Food provided (while supplies last).

Thursday, November 19, 2015,
5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.


Inclusion and Diversity: Are you a Social Justice Transformer?
Guest Presenter: Anushay Irfan Khan, Leadership Development Co-ordinator

How do diversity issues impact us in our daily interactions? How can we create change and progress at McMaster by valuing differences? Develop a toolkit of skills and strategies to create a safe and equitable learning environment in Speakeasy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016
5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.

MUSC 313/311
(3rd Floor of Student Centre)

Around the World in 5 C’s: Cultural Competencies and Cross-Cultural Communication
Guest Presenter: Anushay Irfan Khan, Leadership Development Co-ordinator

Communication breakdowns happen in the best of times. What happens when we also are trying to bridge the culture gap in our communication? Join us for a discussion on inclusive cross-cultural dialogue and language.

Saturday, January 16, 2016


McMaster Student Leadership Conference

Inspires students to let their passions guide how they demonstrate leadership and equips students with the skills and ideas to start making change.
Held annually in January, the conference offers opportunities to network with over 300 current and aspiring student leaders from across campus, engage with professional and student presenters, and kick-start the new semester by illuminating fresh ideas and re-igniting passions. Workshops build knowledge, enhance skills, and highlight issues on campus or in our society to ignite change.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016
5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.

(3rd Floor of Student Centre)

Mentorship and Listening Well
Guest Presenter: Anushay Irfan Khan, Leadership Development Co-ordinator

Develop active listening and paraphrasing techniques to effectively support and mentor students within an EAL context.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016
5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.

(3rd Floor of Student Centre)

Beyond Speakeasy: Launching Careers and Grad School in a Global World
Guest Presenter: Anna Magnotta, Experiential Program Co-ordinator

Our Speakeasy volunteers have an edge in an increasingly global world. How does your Speakeasy experience help to launch your career or graduate studies? Learn how to sell your soft skills in a competitive global market. 
Thank you for your hard work this year!
Food provided (while supplies last).

*Registration is required for each session on OSCARplus or via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Conversation Circle

To practice communication in a small group setting, Conversation Circle allows English-as-an-Additional-Language (EAL) students and volunteers to discuss a topic based on chosen materials, such as video clips, current events, newspaper articles, or stories. Discussion is facilitated by the Speakeasy and Conversation Circle Coordinators and usually involves a group of approximately six participants.

Conversation Circle also exposes students to different perspectives and cultures, and improves overall academic success by enhancing communication and thinking skills.

If you would like to participate in a Conversation Circle please email the Speakeasy Coordinators at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

January to April 2016

All students are welcome to attend.

Dates for Winter Semester 2016 (beginning January 11):

Mondays | 11:30 a.m. - 12:20 p.m. 
Thursdays | 1:30 p.m. - 2:20 p.m.
Location: Mills Library Community Room L304 (Note the following exceptions)

Room Change Exceptions:

The following dates will be held in the Student Success Centre, Gilmour Hall, Room 110

Monday, January 25, 11:30 a.m. - 12:20 a.m.
Thursday, January 28, 1:30 p.m. - 2:20 p.m.
Thursday, February 25, 1:30 p.m. - 2:20 p.m.
Thursday, March 24, 1:30 p.m. - 2:20 p.m.
Thursday, March 31, 1:30 p.m. - 2:20 p.m.

No Conversation Circle during Reading Week (February 15 and 18)


Increase your confidence in the classroom. Register to attend one or all of the workshops being offered during the Winter term. Workshops are facilitated in a small group format and provide students with an opportunity to ask questions and improve the skills necessary for success at university in Canada.

Registration for all workshops is on OSCARplus.

Learning in an Unfamiliar Culture

What do my professors and peers expect of me in the classroom? Understanding all the cultural dimensions of the classroom can be confusing. Join us for a discussion on increasing cultural intelligence and navigating interpersonal relationships in the classroom. This workshop is especially relevant for students who have studied outside of a North American context.

Guest Presentation by:
Nour El Shamy, MBA
Information Systems Ph.D. Candidate
DeGroote School of Business
Communications Director, DeGroote Doctoral Student Association (DDSA)
McMaster University

Speaking Confidently in the Classroom (English Language Learners)

Are you worried about how your English language abilities will affect your classroom experience? Learn strategies for speaking in the classroom.

Listening Confidently in the Classroom (English Language Learners)

This workshop will help you learn and practice strategies for listening and notetaking in the classroom in order to increase your confidence.

Strategies for Learning Academic Vocabulary (English Language Learners)

Is reading a textbook or understanding an assignment difficult because of the vocabulary? Find out how to learn academic vocabulary quickly and efficiently.

Cite Right: A Guide to Referencing and Avoiding Plagiarism (English Language Learners)

Plagiarism is often accidental. Learn how to cite, quote and paraphrase correctly. This workshop will demonstrate different types of plagiarism and will show you how to avoid academic dishonesty. Academic integrity across cultures will also be discussed.

Group Dynamics

Working in groups can be difficult. Different work habits, learning styles and personalities can create unresolved conflict. There are techniques for working with people who work differently from you. Learn how to create positive group dynamics and effectively resolve issues in your group.

Writing for Success in Canada

Are you writing your first university essays in Canada? Are you concerned that the writing style and expectations from professors are very different from your previous educational system or that your ability to write in English will affect your grade? Learn how to craft a thesis statement, structure an argument, and write clearly and concisely.

Differences in Formal and Informal Writing

What is the difference between “The researcher did an experiment” and “The researcher conducted an experiment”? The meaning of both sentences is the same. Both sentences are grammatically correct. The difference is that “did” is informal language and “conducted” is formal academic language. This workshop will focus on incorporating more formal academic language into your writing.

For more information, please contact Ann Andree-Wiebe at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 905-525-9140 ext. 27453

Writing Series

Refresh your grammar and writing skills in a 5-week writing workshop series.  Topics covered include: articles, prepositions, academic vocabulary, sentence variety, verb tenses, and quantity expressions.

As a pilot project, the topics may be adjusted to suit the needs of those participating in the series.

Refreshments will be provided each week.  Students who attend all five weeks will be entered into a $100 draw and will receive a Letter of Completion.

Space is limited! Please register on OSCARplus

If you have any questions, please contact Ann Andree-Wiebe at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 905-525-9140 ext. 27453.


Many resources for English-as-an-Additional-Language (EAL) students are available online to help you with grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and listening, and provide links to exercises, quizzes, and other EAL information.

In addition to the resources listed below, we recommend DuoLingo, a free website and app that teaches many world languages. New languages are regularly developed and added; keep checking back for additional options and languages.

Grammar and Vocabulary

English Central Videos: Practice listening, writing and speaking English with these short 20-30 second video clips.

Adult ESL Resources: List of print and internet resources

Internet TESL Journal: Links to interactive games, puzzles and idioms

Dave's ESL Café: Provides a wide range of materials for students including, grammar, vocabulary and slang

ESL instruction from the Purdue Online Writing Lab : Detailed explanation of grammar issues

Aardvark's English Forum: Includes many interactive exercises on vocabulary and grammar

University of Victoria Study Zone: Materials at all levels including quizzes

Guide to Grammar and Writing: Ask questions and receive answers within 24 hours

English Grammar Quizzes : Includes vocabulary and other English quizzes

Activities for ESL students: Grammar and vocabulary quizzes and activities

The Tower of English: Directory of English tutors, Schools and Classes

ESL Wonderland: Listening, reading and grammar activities

Many Things: Resources for beginners

English Club: Reading, writing, articles, quizzes and jokes

Grammar Exercises for ESL Beginners: Helpful materials

English as a Second Language: Interactive quizzes on difficult points

Athabaska University - English Grammar Handbook: Summary of grammar

Pronunciation and Listening

Sounds of English: Pronunciation quizzes and activities as well as links

English pronunciation and listening skills: Practice exercises including minimal pairs and tongue twisters

Authentic American Pronunciation: Real Player and You Tube videos

Randall's ESL Cyber-Listening Lab: Exercises, quizzes and video

ESL Independent Study Lab: Listening exercises and materials

ESL Classes, Programs and Articles

ESL in Canada Directory: Guide to programs, classes and articles

Additional Resources

A Guide to Internet Resources for ESL Teachers

TESL Canada

Links of interest to students and teachers of English as a Second Language