ESL and native English speakers discuss dating and marriage in different cultures

A small group of both American-born and international students sat down for a Conversation Circle on Monday evening to discuss a variety of issues surrounding the topic of marriage and its cultural opinions beyond the U.S.

The circle, led by Kara Dinowitz, a junior majoring in English, and Sylvia Moon, a senior majoring in English, discussed topics about dating and marriage. Students in the circle were encouraged to share their perspectives, especially those who were raised in another country.

For certain topics, most students seemed to reach a common ground. There was a general consensus against getting married in one’s early twenties, though one student voiced a different perspective.

“With marriage comes trouble,” said Qiming Zou, a sophomore majoring in mathematics.

Moon, however, believed that it was important to be prepared for marriage, saying that she would prefer to get married in her thirties.

“I want to make sure I can support my own family with my own income,” Moon said.

The conversation also touched on topics such as how homosexuality is viewed in different cultures. One international student mentioned the reaction many people take regarding same-sex couples in Korea.

“The government don’t take marriage contracts for them because it’s illegal. People think its weird,” said Junseong Park, a sophomore majoring in biology, in regards to the public opinion.

Chris Zamlout, a junior majoring in philosophy, politics and law, said he experienced dual impressions regarding homosexuality growing up.

“As someone who has lived in the U.S. all my life, I have two influences. My family is from Syria in the Middle East, and they’re very religious. It is highly disputed and not okay to be a same-sex couple, but in the U.S. it is much different,” Zamlout said. “Family-wise, my family is very strict, I’m first generation [born] so they’re still in that [old] mindset.”

The Conversation Circle series is part of the ESL Conversation Pairs program at Binghamton University, where native English speakers sign up to spend an hour or more a week getting to know and speak with an international student and helping them practice their English.

“At Binghamton, there’s a large population of students from another country. Often they take ESL classes to fulfill writing credits, it helps them. Me and Sylvia are TAs for the Pronunciation and Speaking Skills class (ESL 215),” Dinowitz said. “One of our NSA (Native Speaking Assistant) requirements is to lead a conversation circle, where we come up with a topic, a planning workshop and good ways to facilitate a comfortable conversation.”

The Conversation Circle series will continue to be held throughout the semester by other teaching assistants of ESL classes, where similar topics of discussion will occur.

“It was better than I expected,” Dinowitz said. “I was upset that it was so small at first, but because it was so small, we were able to have good conversation.”