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This handout will help students interact more effectively with international teaching assistants.
Almost 100 countries are represented at UNC, giving you a wonderful opportunity to learn how to communicate with people from all over the world. Some of your courses will be taught by faculty and teaching assistants whose first language is not English, and while this may present some challenges to you and to them, making an effort to ensure successful communication will give you an enriching educational and intercultural experience. Here are a few simple strategies you can use:
“Let me make sure I understand this” (before you explain your understanding of the point)
“Could I ask a question?” “I have a question about X.”
“Would you write that down please?”
“I’m sorry. Would you say that again?”
“What I mean is…”
“Could I come to your office hours tomorrow?”
“Could I email you some questions?”
“Thank you for helping me.”
International educational cultures are as different as international cuisines, and what we think is normal is influenced by what we’ve been exposed to. Keep this in mind if your TA doesn’t teach exactly the way you’re used to being taught, and try to be open to the new style.
You can learn more about international TAs and help them learn about American undergraduates through the Graduate School’s “Preparing International Teaching Assistants Program” (PITAP). Volunteering just a few hours in a semester can make a huge difference to a lot of people.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.
You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout (just click print) and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill