An American Floor: Promoting English Language and American Culture
Derya Dogan, a YES alumna from the first YES class of 2003-04, received a grant in summer 2012 to set up an American Floor and American Room at Hasan Kalyoncu University’s School for Foreign Languages (SFL) in Gaziantep, Turkey. Derya is a lecturer at the university who teaches English for Speakers of Other Languages. She is also a graduate of the 2012 YES Alumni Training of Trainers Workshop held in Washington DC.
The American Floor is a project based on setting up one floor of the School of Foreign Languages building as a hub for improving English language skills of university students and promoting an awareness of American culture. Derya has spent a good part of a semester constructing the American Room which fully opened in January 2013. The American Room is a gathering spot for students and academic staff to hold casual conversation sessions to practice English, a meeting room for discussions and debates about popular political and social topics in English and a resource center. There are books and audio materials on topics varying from U.S. History and Culture to English Exam Preparation. The project provided funding to purchase and install the needed materials to develop the American Room and the American Floor. Items purchased included bookshelves, seating, audio books, magazines, posters, and symbols from different U.S. states.
Derya has received support from the Dean’s Office in the School of Foreign Languages (SFL) for the project. The Dean’s Office agreed to provide the space for the American Room as a permanent room at the SFL. The Dean’s Office also provided materials for the room by purchasing beanbags for the seating and English story books. Several audio books were contributed by professors at the SFL and English story books by the university itself. Two lecturers at the SFL, colleagues of Derya, were involved in the project design and implementation.
So far the room has been used to teach Listening & Speaking classes, hold movie events and English Conversation Club meetings. The American Room has posters not only of American pop culture but also American history. The students and also the teachers love the friendly, welcoming atmosphere in the room because it doesn’t have desks, chairs and a teacher’s table as in a regular classroom.
Posters on the floor are already a motivation for the students to learn English. As SFL student Faith remarked:
“The posters on the floor have really changed the atmosphere here. The bean bag chairs and cushions create a different and nice atmosphere. Especially New York pictures are so cool. I dream of myself in those places and that pushes me more to learn English. When I enter the American room, I feel like I am not in a class environment. “
The project received excellent feedback including from Dr. Bayram Peköz, the head of SFL:
“The American Room and American Floor Project has been carried out with the attempts of Derya Doğan, Selçuk Bilgin and Hüseyin Uysal. It has recently been finished but it has already added a different atmosphere to our building. It is going to be an important body of our department with its resources, facilities, and activities. I would like to thank American Councils and YES Program for providing us with the project funding. We appreciate that.”
SFL teacher Fiona from the UK also notes:
“I think it is a really good resource. It provides a really good atmosphere. It creates a relaxed speaking environment and the students certainly feel it as a privilege to use/have that room. The students really want to make use of the American Room. It gives a completely different attitude towards language learning. It personalizes the floor. I love the footprints. It shows many different aspects of the culture."
Visit the American Room Facebook page
Photos courtesy of Derya Dogan: Top: Derya welcomes American Room visitors. Middle: English Conversation Club members