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English Language Support

Whether English is your second or third language, the Student Success Centre offers several services to help non-native 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).

  • Speakeasy
  • Conversation
  • Resources

Speakeasy Program

The Speakeasy Program is a partnership program aimed at joining English-speaking students with ESL students. The goal of the Speakeasy Program is to help ESL 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 foreign cultures and build friendships across the McMaster community.

In order to accomplish these goals, volunteers are paired with English as a Second Language Persons (ESLPs) 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

ESL Student Application Form
Volunteer Application Form
Speakeasy Volunteer Manual

Speakeasy Office Hours

Day Time Office
Monday   2:30 – 4:20 Mills 213E
Wednesday   9:30 - 11:20 Mills 213E
Friday   2:00 - 3:50 Mills 213E

Conversation Circle

To practice communication in a small group setting, Conversation Circle allows ESL 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 2015

Weekly conversation circles are held every Friday from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Mills Library Connections Centre (room L113). All students are welcome to attend and no registration is required.



Many resources for ESL students are available online to help you with grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and listening, and provide links to exercises, quizzes, and other ESL 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

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