Monday, March 21, 2011

Talk Time: Building Community across and through Language

This October, Talk Time – a program bringing together English language learners and English speaking facilitators – began at the Greenwood Senior Center.

Talk Time was originally started by the Tacoma Community House and continues at libraries and community organizations locally and across the country. It consists of conversation sessions for English language learning participants and volunteer facilitators. The goal of the sessions is to increase confidence among participants in using the English language. Talk Time differs from a traditional English as a Second Language classroom setting in that the facilitator’s role is to create opportunities for conversation and practice, not to teach lessons on structured speech. Communicating becomes more important than the form of the conversation. The terms “participant” and “facilitator” are used (rather than “teacher” and “student”) to emphasize that the relationship is based on sharing conversation, not transmitting information.

The mission of Talk Time at the Greenwood Senior Center is to provide a safe, non-threatening, and relaxed environment in which participants can practice and develop confidence in newly acquired English-speaking and listening skills and connect with community. The program aims to support a diverse group of English language learners of all ability levels and ages so that they communicate more confidently. Also, we particularly hope to provide a space for older adults who are new speakers of English and who live in the neighborhood.

The Greenwood Senior Center has been very lucky to have the support of three wonderful facilitators as well as a steady group of participants – from places such as Brazil, Russia, China, Romania, Japan, and Colombia.

One participant shared that she was shy at first about the idea of coming to the Greenwood Senior Center. Now, she says it is her favorite part of her week.

The program is as meaningful to facilitators as to participants. As one of our facilitators Fae says, “I think I get more out of it than the participants do.” It is about community building for everybody.

We are very grateful to have connections with many community organizations, such as the Seattle Public Library, St. James Cathedral, and the Chinese Information and Service Center. The Library has been tremendously supportive in providing advice, allowing us to learn about and model their program, and sharing materials and other opportunities. St. James Cathedral and the Chinese Information and Service Center have likewise helped tremendously with translations and outreach.

We invite readers to share information about Talk Time with English language learners who might be interested in joining us.

The program is held every Monday morning from 10:30am until 12noon at the Greenwood Senior Center, 525 N 85th St, Seattle, WA, 98103. For more information, please contact Katie Parker at or 206-783-2244 (TTh) or 206-297-0875 (MWF).

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