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Where can immigrants go to practice their English speaking skills in a relaxed, non-judgmental atmosphere? How can American libraries introduce their wonderful resources to new users and provide a vital need? Where can volunteers, librarians, and both novice and experienced English teachers enjoy leading small groups of English language learners in engaging, reflective conversations?
American public libraries are increasingly hosting ESL conversation clubs. Filling a clear unmet need for thousands of American immigrants, libraries can often provide a smaller, less stressful environment than crowded adult ESL classes. Some ESL conversation clubs regularly meet twice a week for two hours, and other clubs less frequently for shorter periods. Members get a chance to share experiences, expand their vocabulary, and actually practice speaking.
I became aware of this growing trend in the Spring of 2010 when an influential blog for librarians mentioned Compelling Conversations as a recommended resource.
Under the title “Great Tips”, a small, but influential American librarian’s blog called eslconversationclubs.blogspot.com shared some ideas from Compelling Conversations. Naturally, I am quite pleased to both be recommended – and to discover an entire community of like-minded educators.
Here’s the link to that blog post to ESL educators, librarians, and conversation club coordinators:
After reading this short post that made me smile, I spent a satisfying hour exploring the deep resources on the blog that dates back several years. Among the excellent resources is a short two-page document called ESL Conversation Clubs Best Practices by Jean Kaleda of webjunction.com that deserves a wider audience. Check it out here:
I’m glad to discover that so many American public libraries already offer ESL conversation clubs. Their apparent growth is even better news, especially as immigration debate heats up. These friendly, informal gatherings fill a vital, often overlooked, need for many American immigrants, adult ESL students, and other English language learners. “Speech is civilization itself,” as Thomas Mann wrote. “It is silence which isolates.” ESL conversation clubs at libraries allow many quiet, hardworking, and often silent immigrants to find their voices and share their experiences in English. These conversations can be simple, moving, and significant.
Naturally, I’m also glad that my little niche, self-published book is considered a valuable, accessible resource.