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Lunch (and Language) is Served: EAL Support for Jane’s Restaurant Practical Students

April 21, 2021

Written by Emilie Jackson; introduction by Stephen Sawchyn, Academic Success Centre


The Academic Success Centre has been helping EAL students in the Hospitality and Tourism Management program prepare to serve tables in Jane’s Restaurant since 2016. With COVID-19 restrictions keeping Jane’s closed to the public in fall 2020 and uncertainty around when students would be able to use the space again, the program decided to suspend language training until the winter term. Read on to hear how EAL Tutor Emilie Jackson successfully moved the language workshop series online, providing 25 students with virtual table-side service opportunities and gaining accolades from students, faculty and senior leadership.

Emilie’s Success Story: Moving the Language Workshop Online

This term I worked with four groups of EAL students in the Hospitality and Tourism Management program to help them prepare for the Restaurant Service Practical course, where students work in Jane’s to learn about fine dining. Three mornings a week for three weeks before their course, we met online to build their language skills. Our goals for the language support sessions were:

  • Learn how to interact with a guest at Jane’s, including greeting the guest, taking their lunch order, serving the meal, and more, which we called the “Server Expectations Script”
  • Become familiar with Jane’s lunch menu, including being able to make recommendations to guests and answer questions about menu terms and items

Our focus was learning the script and menu, but each student brought their own language needs to the sessions. While some students were confident enough in their language skills to jump right into the script or unfamiliar menu terms, others needed to focus on pronunciation, intonation, speed, or overall clarity. Students were aware that once they were on-site at Jane’s, they would be required to wear masks and socially distance, making clear speech even more essential.

Due to various language needs, I provided additional one-on-one tutoring to a few students in each group. These one-on-one sessions were student-led, and we were able to focus in on the phrases, words, or skills that needed special attention. We sang, flapped our arms, stretched out rubber bands to practice word stress, stood up and sat down, learned tongue twisters, and even practiced with masks – anything to build their skills and confidence!

Throughout the sessions, students had access to a Learn course that included materials used in sessions, as well as additional materials to assist in their independent practice.

At the end of our three weeks, the students and I hosted a Virtual Lunch. For this final session, I invited RRC staff and faculty from the Hospitality and Tourism Management program, Academic Success Centre, as well as a few members from the College leadership team to our online meeting to be “served lunch” by the students. Each student ran through the script from beginning to end with a new guest each time, which provided the students the opportunity to interact with new English speakers, receive in-the-moment feedback, and show off their hard work! It is something to be invited to lunch without food, so thank you to all the guests that have joined us over the last few months!

I was continually impressed by the students’ willingness to give their best, make mistakes, learn from each other, practice independently, and ask questions. It was a lesson in adapting to online learning, but the fantastic students made it a worthwhile challenge!

Feedback from the Hospitality and Tourism Management program:

I have been receiving glowing reports about the work Emilie Jackson has been doing with our students in Hospitality. Both our online instructors, and the restaurant instructors tell me the great job Emilie has been doing with supporting our students with language development in our program. The activities and instruction have been excellent.  (Karen McDonald, B.Ed., Chair, School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts)