David Sheratt talks about how PAL has given him a confidence boost and has been a great way to meet new people.
David is a recent doctoral student in the Department of Computer Science. Since beginning his doctoral studies David has attended Language PAL sessions for Mandarin Chinese. David’s desire to give other students the same benefits he experienced, motivated him to volunteer as a Language PAL leader for English.
Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) is an academic support scheme where trained PAL Leaders who are native speakers of the language(s) taught at the Skills Centre (Foreign Languages), work to facilitate regular study groups of students. The sessions help develop intercultural awareness and language skills.
"I have developed more confidence about speaking Chinese - reducing the fear of making a mistake and embarrassing myself.”
— David Sheratt, PhD researcher, Department of Computer Science
The Chinese sessions were an eye-opener specifically to the youth culture in China. I had already learnt about some Chinese traditions - but the sessions revealed lots about modern slang, internet terms, idioms etc. which gave me more of an insight about modern world China.
As a PAL leader in the English sessions, I had the opportunity to look at English from a non-native's perspective. I can now relate when people say "English is a strange language". I started to understand in more depth the reasons why it’s so easy to make grammatical mistakes.
Being a PAL leader allowed me to develop my planning skills, as I had to organise and deliver activities for each session. Teamwork was really important as I was working with other PAL leaders in the planning stage and when running the sessions. Also, and most obviously, it allowed me to become more confident to talk to a group. I was responsible for maintaining the Facebook support group and writing emails to regular attendees, overall developing my communication skills.
The most enjoyable experience of the whole PAL scheme was meeting and getting to know driven and intelligent individuals that I would have never met otherwise.
I have developed more confidence about speaking Chinese - reducing the fear of making a mistake and embarrassing myself. As a result of this, I believe my speaking ability has greatly improved.
I would encourage others to get involved in the scheme. As both a PAL leader and an attendee, I benefited so much in not only improving my Chinese language skills, but also my general life skills such as communication, teamwork, planning and organising, and adaptability. It's also fun and laid back; you can improve your learning without pressure and stress.