More than a Conversation: Georgia Tech Students Gather Virtually to Practice English and Socialize

On September 17, 2020, a number of Georgia Tech students, Naugle CommLab employees, Writing and Communication Program faculty, and Georgia Tech International Ambassadors gathered in Microsoft Teams…to talk. The Naugle CommLab and the WCP’s World Englishes Committee partnered to organize and host the event, which is an opportunity for graduate and undergraduate students who are learning English as a second or other language to come together and practice speaking in English.

Dr. Kendra Slayton, one of CommLab’s interim co-directors and, along with Dr. Rob Griffin, one of the lead organizers behind the Conversation Hour event series, was impressed by the turnout at the September event. “We ended up with 36 people on the call. Eight of those people were [CommLab employees] and a couple of GTIAs who have worked with us in the past, so that’s twenty-something participants not including the chat moderators.”

During the Conversation Hour, participants initially assemble in a large group, then split into smaller groups in separate breakout rooms, each with their own conversation leader or moderator, where they chat for the rest of the hour. And what do they talk about? Perhaps a better question is, what don’t they talk about? Many of the conversations start with a topic, like pop culture, food, travel, and so on, but that doesn’t mean the groups have to stick with that topic. Moderators allow conversations to develop naturally and try to make sure everyone gets an opportunity to join in.

Stephanie Oliva, one of the Conversation Hour moderators, said, “We started talking about TV shows. We kind of went off on a tangent like that, and we only got food in right at the end. But we had all seen a lot of the same TV shows, and it was really cool to see everyone just get really into it. It was a lot of fun.”

Dr. Alok Amatya, a professional consultant in the Naugle CommLab and a Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow, also described what was in his opinion a resounding success.

“So many people came, and the prompts that were provided…really helped in giving direction for the conversation. I had three students, and I’m not sure how many of them had participated in this before, but they seemed to know what to expect, and they all had a really enjoyable conversation. At a time like this, it’s so great to have a social chat anyway.”

Oliva, an LMC major and a peer consultant who has been working in the Naugle CommLab since 2018, also commented on what she sees as the benefits of the Conversation Hour and why she enjoys working with the students. She says,

I like participating in Conversation Hours because it gives people the opportunity to practice their English skills in a safe and non-judgmental environment. As someone who is learning a new language, I understand how important this sort of atmosphere is to developing confidence in one’s speaking skills. I also think it’s fun to meet new people (especially at a time like this).”

The Naugle CommLab started hosting these events in the CommLab itself in 2019, but since the pandemic they have shifted their focus to trying to hold these events virtually. While it may not be the same as a face-to-face Conversation Hour, Dr. Rob Griffin, the Naugle CommLab’s English Language Learning specialist, says the events are still hugely important, not simply for language practice, but also for mental health. He says,

“I think the Conversation Hour is vital to the well-being of our students as a forum to break the isolation and detachment many are facing, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. Programming such as the CommLab Conversation Hour is in keeping with the diverse and inclusive setting that Tech promotes by making itself accountable to the needs of students whose voices may not always be heard. By hosting such venues, CommLab continues to support the Georgia Tech community as an important hub for a broad array of services that enhance linguistic skill and visual literacy while also providing a network for socialization and cross-cultural awareness.”

Hannah Lachmayr, a graduate student in Biology and a center assistant in the CommLab, also talks about why the Conversation Hour is especially meaningful to her:

Georgia Tech is packed with diversity, and to me, Conversation Hour showcases this. The students are so eager and motivated to improve their English conversation skills that I am inspired by them, and we consequently have an engaging conversation. Particularly, I love hearing about aspects of their lives and how they parallel mine yet are unique. Just from simple conversations, I have already been taught new recipes/cooking techniques (including making Japanese pancakes – 窯焼きスフレパンケーキ) and learned of new mentally-stimulating TV to watch. Seeing the students gain confidence in their speaking and use of vocabulary throughout a session, especially as they discuss a point of interest, is rewarding.”

So, will there be more conversations in the future? If you ask Dr. Slayton, the answer is absolutely yes. “We had something like 44 people actually register, so there is a bigger pool of people out there who may be interested in future [events].”

And as long as the situation remains as it is, the need will remain and grow. As Dr. Griffin said, “At a time when many courses are asynchronous, extracurricular activities are restricted, and human contact is difficult, the Conversation Hour is one venue where students are reconnected to faces and voices in real time even if only on a screen.”

Call for Submissions–World Englishes: Linguistic Variety, Global Society

World Englishes (WEs) as field challenges “native”/“nonnative” speaker distinctions and celebrates the multivariance of English around the world. It also acknowledges the legacies of British imperialism, ongoing linguistic and cultural colonization, and contemporary globalization in the spread of English. (Please click on the image to the right to download the full .pdf version of our call for submissions.)

This interdisciplinary field bridges postcolonial theory, applied linguistics, creative writing, composition pedagogy and more. As a committee, we are interested in how WEs approaches enrich the Writing and Communication Program’s commitment to student learning through its multimodal approach to communication. With a focus on how users negotiate or “shuttle between” multiple languages and cultures in specific contexts, WEs are deeply rhetorical, and knowledge of English varieties across communities, professions, regions, or countries is invaluable to the citizens of our increasingly global society. 

We seek submissions to our website in the following content areas: 

Reflections on Teaching Global Literature and General-Interest Articles 



Reflections on Teaching Global Literature and General-Interest Articles 

TopicFor the reflections, any text (book, film, video, podcast, etc.) that you have taught at Georgia Tech or elsewhere would work as the focus for a teaching reflection as long as it relates to global, transnational, multilingual or translingual literature, or World Englishes. We also publish short general-interest articles on topics related to World Englishes that include research and analysis.  

Length: 600-1200 words 

Title: Your choice. Academic or catchy is good. 

Tone: These reflections and articles are for academics and teachers, but they should also be accessible to a broader audience as well, so please do not use many theoretical terms or jargon. You can even have a more casual narrative style if it fits your rhetorical goals.   

Sources: If you would like to incorporate a little of the critical conversation about the texts you write about, feel free to do so, but remember this is primarily a reflective piece rather than a full-blown academic article. We encourage you to use passages from the text you are reflecting on. We also encourage, but do not require, you to think about making your reflections or articles multimodal. 

Editorial Process: When you submit your piece to gtworldenglishgescommittee@gmail.comwe will read your submission, make some notes, ask some questions, and send it back to you for your review. Once we have gone through this process and the piece is complete to your and our satisfaction, we will publish the reflection on the World Englishes website. We encourage you to read some past reflections and articles to get an idea of what other people have written on. 

Prompt (reflection)If your article focuses on a specific text that you have taught, the following questions will hopefully focus your thinking as you reflect on your chosen text and how you taught it. The way you structure your piece is up to you. Do not feel that you need to respond to all these questions, but at least touch on the ones you feel will benefit other teachersand consequently studentsthe most. 

  1. Which global or multicultural text will you be reflecting on? What is it about? Provide a brief synopsis. Do not assume that people have read it. When did you teach it? 
  2. What is your favorite part or passage from the text? Why? How does it intersect with some of the text’s key themes? What are those themes? 
  3. How did/do you teach this text? Be specific. How did/do your students respond? Have you had any specific interesting, exciting, or surprising experiences with teaching this text and its themes? 
  4. What are some of the challenges you have experienced in teaching this text? How have you overcome these challenges? What would you do differently now? 
  5. What do you see as the broader impact of studying this text? If students only take away one thing from reading and discussing it, what do you hope that is? Be specific. 
  6. How can studying this text (and global literatures more generally) contribute to the professionalization and training of your students, evenor especiallystudents whose majors are not connected to the humanities? 


Do you still read for fun? We used to and still try to occasionally, and when we find something we like that intersects with our mission or contains relevant topics of interest, we publish reviews of those books on our website. We primarily review books, but we are also open to reviews of recent films as well, as long as the film and the review connect with the kinds of topics that the World Englishes Committee engages with. 

Length: 600-1200 words 

Requirements: Please include a full citation for the piece you are reviewing (at the top of the piece) and citations for any other text you quote in your review (in a works cited page).  

Additionally, this is an academic genre, but please refrain from using a lot of theoretical language or jargon. We like accessibility and promote it whenever we can. Feel free to read some of our reviews to get a sense of our style and the range of works we have reviewed. 


If you know someone who does work, academic or otherwise, related to the field of World Englishes, linguistics, translation, global literature, ESL/TESOL, etc., let us know. We would love to contact them for an interview. Even better, we would love for you to interview them and then publish your interview on our site. While we primarily publish written transcripts of interviews and email interviews, we also encourage interviewers to provide an audio version or clips of their interviews along with a transcript.  

How and When to SubmitWe have a rolling deadline for everything we publish, so send a query to or talk to a member of the World Englishes Committee if you are interested: 

Alok Amatya [] 

Jeff Howard [] 

Eric Lewis [] 

Kendra Slayton [] 


English Conversation Hour Is Back!

It’s September, and the Naugle Communication Center/CommLab is back in full swing with the English Conversation Hour! The event is an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students at Georgia Tech who are learning English as a second or other language to come together in a Microsoft Teams meeting to socialize and practice their conversational English. The WCP’s World Englishes Committee and Dr. Rob Griffin, the Center’s English language learning specialist, are partnering with the Communication Center to host this event. Please see the poster above for information on how to register and join the meeting. If you have any additional questions, please email the Communication Center at

RAMBLE Magazine Submissions

Are you creative? Are you a writer/artist/communicator? Do you generally not think of yourself as any of those, but your English 1101 or 1102 instructor assigned you to compose a poem or a short story or photo essay or video or infographic or some other creative communication artifact? If any of these things fit your situation–and if you meet our eligibility criteria for submitting (see below)–then we just might have a publishing opportunity for you!

RAMBLE seeks to publish original, unpublished creative work (poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and much more) produced by multilingual and international undergraduate and graduate students at Georgia Tech who meet one or more of the following eligibility criteria:

    • you are learning English as a second or other language
    • your first language is a postcolonial variety of English (as an example, if you come from Singapore and spoke a variety of Singapore-English growing up)
    • you come from a bilingual/multilingual home situation

If you believe you meet our criteria for eligibility, but are not certain, just email us and we can let you know. If you would like to submit to RAMBLE, please feel free to submit work for review by sending it to Kendra Slayton at

Before submitting, please read our Submissions and FAQ pages for more information on what we are looking to publish. We also invite you to read an issue of the magazine so you can get a sense of the kinds of pieces we publish. We are not a paying market, but we are happy to review and potentially publish your work.

Meet the World Englishes Committee

The World Englishes Committee is one of several committees in the Writing and Communication Program at Georgia Tech. The committee consists of Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellows who devote themselves to publishing, teaching, service, and professional development opportunities that align with the committee’s mission statement, which reads,

“While English is the common denominator for communication among diverse cultural groups, the changing roles and functions of English around the world have altered strategies for English language pedagogy. In response to this growing trend and the varieties of spoken and written Englishes, the World Englishes Committee’s mission is to develop physical and digital resources and strategies for Writing and Communication Program faculty and students at Georgia Tech.”

The committee for the 2020-21 academic year consists of four members (three returning, one new): Kendra Slayton (second-year Brittain Fellow and committee chair), Alok Amatya (third-year Brittain Fellow), Jeff Howard (third-year Brittain Fellow), and Eric Lewis (first-year Brittain Fellow.)

You can look at this site’s About Us page to learn more about the individual committee members, but we wanted to provide a little more information about them that you would not necessarily discover by reading their individual bios. As a bonus, in addition to responding to the interview questions below, the committee also took the Pivot questionnaire (popularized in the U.S. on James Lipton’s Inside the Actors Studio), so feel free to take a minute to read their entertaining answers in response to that as well.

Kendra Slayton

Why did you want to be part of this committee?

I have always loved learning languages, and my experiences studying abroad in college and then living in Japan from 2008–2011 led me to experience firsthand what it’s like to be a language learner in a place where the most commonly spoken language is not your native tongue. I love the World Englishes Committee because we try to encourage awareness of what it’s like to learn English as an additional language, as well as bringing awareness to all the varieties of English found throughout the world.

What do you like best about teaching?

It’s hard to decide because there’s a lot that I love about teaching. Since I’m a medievalist, if I had to pick one thing, I’d say that what I like best is helping students see how “old” stories can still teach us something about our own lives. To quote Chaucer in The Legend of Good Women, “if the old books were flown away, / Of remembrance would be lost the way.”

If there weren’t a pandemic and you had a bit of free time, how would you choose to spend it?

Archery! All day every day! I haven’t had range access since March, and my poor scapulae are disappearing!

What is the best movie you’ve seen in the last year?

Parasite. I thought about it for days after I watched it. But I also want to give a shout-out to the best show I’ve watched this year–HBO’s The Watchmen. It has incredible storytelling and acting but is also incredibly relevant to our current events.

What is the book you want to read most but haven’t had a chance to read yet? 

My brother’s book! My older brother is also in academia (and also a medievalist–no, this was not an organized family plan), and he published his first academic monograph earlier this year: The Virtues of Economy: Governance, Power, and Piety in Late Medieval Rome.


Alok Amatya

Why did you want to be part of this committee?

World Englishes represents an important commitment towards the heterogeneity of English as it is spoken and written globally. I joined the committee to research and educate more effectively – and as a collective – about English as a global language.

What do you like best about teaching?

One of the things I like about teaching is being able to engage with young minds and their enthusiasm for learning.

If there weren’t a pandemic and you had a bit of free time, how would you choose to spend it?

During the pandemic I’ve missed sharing meals with family and friends. I’d invite a lot of people to a cookout.

What is the best movie you’ve seen in the last year?

Super Deluxe (2019) directed by Thiagarajan Kumararaja.

What is the book you want to read most but haven’t had a chance to read yet? 

Nina Lakhani’s Who Killed Berta Caceres?: Dams, Death Squads, and an Indigenous Defender’s Battle for the Planet (2020)


Jeff Howard

Why did you want to be part of this committee?

As a senior in college, I took a Foundations of TESOL course as an elective, and ever since then I have loved continuing to learn more about linguistics, language instruction programs, and ESL/ELL curriculum development. Eventually, I earned a graduate certificate in TESOL as a PhD student rather than take additional literature courses because I felt that the program would help me to become more attuned to the needs of my English language learning students. Providing resources for instructors who wish to know more about the unique circumstances experienced by our multilingual students learning English is an explicit component in the mission of the World Englishes Committee. I wanted to be part of that.

What do you like best about teaching?

My students are the best thing, even the ones who think I’m obsessed with writing. They’re right, of course, but do they have to say that on Rate My Professors? Now, everyone’s going to know that before they even meet me!

If there weren’t a pandemic and you had a bit of free time, how would you choose to spend it?

I’ve been meaning to go to Red Top Mountain State Park, so I would love to take my family camping there if I had some time. We might even visit the Etowah Indian Mounds again, even though I ran into poison ivy there last year. I climbed a tree to take a picture of the Etowah River from above, and a few days later my legs started to fester and itch like mad. Next time, I’ll stay out of the trees.

What is the best movie you’ve seen in the last year? 

I starting getting back into Vittorio de Sica’s work earlier this year, and I think it’s a tie among two of his films, Sciuscià (1946) and Umberto D (1952), and Federico Fellini’s La Strada (1954). Apparently, mid-century Italian cinematic tragedy agrees with me. Psychoanalyze that.

What is the book you want to read most but haven’t had a chance to read yet? 

Eula Biss’s Notes from No Man’s Land (2009). I read the first essay in the book, and it was so, so good. But I was also reading Ulysses at the time, and I had to finish that one because I needed to get it over with and never look back.


Eric Lewis

Why did you want to be part of this committee?

I am a Global Anglophone scholar who spends a lot of his time working with multilingual writers in classrooms, writing centers, and the CommLab. This committee appealed to me in being dedicated to a major aspect of my work and giving me a chance to think deeply about and improve further in an important component of my scholarship and teaching.

What do you like best about teaching?

I love seeing the new ideas that my students are able to produce. Coming across a great idea and coaching a student through the process of refining it is immensely rewarding.

If there weren’t a pandemic and you had a bit of free time, how would you choose to spend it?

Other than the obvious spending time with people, I miss renting a kayak in a local park and kayaking around a lake or down the St. Joseph River.

What is the best movie you’ve seen in the last year?

Choosing just one is really difficult, but I’ll settle on Autumn de Wilde’s Emma. It’s my favorite Austen adaptation ever. It’s really charming, but at the same time, it makes clearer than any other Austen adaptation that this is a story about silly rich people. I love it.

What is the book you want to read most but haven’t had a chance to read yet?

I’m a huge Star Wars nerd, and although I normally draw the line at the novels, I happened to read the first entry in a series on a recommendation and am now eagerly awaiting the sequel: Shadow Fall.