Volunteer Spotlight: Jenny connects with students through Pronunciation Lab

School News

Begun in November 2018, Pronunciation Lab — or “Pro Lab” — is an optional learning opportunity offered to MLC students outside of their regular classes. The goal of the program is to provide students with individualized pronunciation practice with a trained Pro Lab leader. Each session, students who choose to participate meet with a Pro Lab leader online for weekly 20-minute lessons, generally on Monday mornings.

Jenny, a dedicated Pro Lab volunteer at MLC and the current Director of Zingerman’s Press, shared her experience as a Pro Lab Leader. “One of the fantastic aspects of volunteering is the opportunity to support and connect with students from around the world,” she said.

Despite her demanding schedule, Jenny dedicates time on Monday mornings to teach at Pro Lab. “Each session is just 20 minutes, requiring me to be mindful of time. However, it is very rewarding to witness students master challenging pronunciations.”

Jenny explored a wide range of topics at Michigan State University, and graduated with an Interdisciplinary Humanities degree in Linguistics, French, and Anthropology. Her knowledge and experience in linguistics directly contribute to her role as a Pro Lab Leader.

In addition to the interaction with MLC students, she also finds it valuable to collaborate with her fellow Pro Lab leaders. “Sharing lab reports with fellow leaders is very helpful and beneficial. It allows us to exchange experiences and skills on effective teaching methods,” Jenny said.

Jenny Tubbs is the Director of Zingerman’s Press. She produces the “Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading” series. She teaches a broad range of classes, from Service to Visioning to spices. She is a guide on the Zingerman’s Food Tours to Spain.

Join us as a Pro Lab Volunteer:
Our group of Pro Lab leaders is made up of both MLC staff and volunteers from the Ann Arbor area. All that is needed to be a leader is a curiosity about teaching pronunciation and an eagerness to work with individuals from a variety of cultures and language backgrounds. An orientation to the program and access to pronunciation resources are provided to leaders before they begin working with students. Anyone interested in becoming a Pro Lab volunteer can contact the Academic Director, Claire Molling, for more information: claire.molling@englishclasses.com.

How Pro Lab works:
Traditionally, Pronunciation Lab has been offered to students at the lower levels, that is, Levels 1-3 (Low Beginning, Beginning, and Intermediate), as staffing permits. These students are prioritized as they often lack confidence in their English and feel uncomfortable participating in the group-oriented extracurricular activities offered at MLC, such as Conversation Hour or English Seminar. Thus, Pro Lab provides a way to practice English outside of class in a comfortable, 1-on-1 setting.

The basis of Pronunciation Lab is the  Color Vowel Chart system, which links each of the vowel sounds in American English to a color and word, such as “Green Tea E.” This tool has proven beneficial for helping students target and improve tricky vowel sounds. After introducing the Color Vowel system to a student, the Pro Lab leader can move on to addressing other pronunciation challenges they have identified in the student, referencing the Color Vowel chart as needed.