Central Library Talk Time Volunteers

Four of the seven Central Library TT volunteers - from L to R: Maggie Bass, Wayne Holm, Cynthia Putnam, and KiKi Crombie

Four of the seven Central Library TT volunteers - from L to R: Maggie Bass, Wayne Holm, Cynthia Putnam, and KiKi Crombie

Talk Time at the Central Library is a culturally diverse English conversation class supported by a team of seven experienced and friendly volunteers. Each week, the volunteers rotate leading lessons on topics that help participants with daily life in the United States and foster community bonds. The volunteers bring a wealth of knowledge to the Talk Time sessions, and their welcoming spirit, patience, and joy is irreplaceable. Talk Time is successful because of their energy and dedication to the group!

Let’s get to know a little bit about a few volunteers!

Ellen Look

How long have you been volunteering with the Talk Time program? I have been a Talk Time volunteer for almost five years.

What is a highlight or memorable moment from your time volunteering with the program? My favorite lessons are the ones where we engage the participants in a discussion of various aspects of lives in their home countries - food, holidays, hometowns, education, celebrations, etc. Another favorite activity is to ask each participant to write and then to pronounce and lead the group in pronouncing a specific word in their first language. They learn from each other, and I learn from each of them. These topics or activities give every member of the class a chance to be an "expert" even though speaking English is a challenge.

Cynthia Putnam

How long have you been volunteering with the Talk Time program? I am new to Talk Time. I began volunteering in October 2017 at the Central Library location, participating initially as an observer then as a facilitator of a small group discussion.

What is a highlight or memorable moment from your time volunteering with the program? One memorable moment happened at my first Talk Time session. Our small group discussion focused on “getting to know each other” where I learned that in Vietnam, when you first meet someone, it is okay to ask their age and how much money they make. A big “no-no” in the US! But why is it okay in Vietnam? Our group discussed this question but didn’t come up with any clear answers. Since the elderly are treated with special regard and respect in Vietnam, perhaps knowing someone’s age would yield useful information about how to address them in a respectful manner. Likewise, knowing someone’s income may be a clue to their security and value in the workplace, and how much their employer values and cares for them. If someone knows the answer to these questions, please send us an email.

Maggie Bass

How long have you been volunteering with the Talk Time program? I've been a Talk Time volunteer for about nine months.

What is a highlight or memorable moment from your time volunteering with the program? A particular attendee started coming months ago. His English was at a low level. He struggled to understand and to make himself understood, literally throwing up his hands in frustration. I tried to help him whenever he was in my group, and he and his wife sought me out to ask questions. My help sometimes involved mime and drawing as well as language. This past Wednesday, during the mingling activity, this gentleman was doing just that - having a few short conversations with a variety of people. That's a big difference from what he could do when he started. He has widely expanded his ability to communicate in English, and deepened my understanding of the challenges that entails.