Welcome to Our Conversation Clubs!

Learning a new language and adjusting to an unfamiliar culture can be difficult. Residents in
Montgomery County, however, can participate in conversation clubs, led by volunteer facilitators,
where everyone is welcome and registration is not required. Our clubs include a diverse group of
participants from varied countries with different languages.

English conversation club meeting room
Quince Orchard Library Conversation Club Meeting Room

In 2015, MyMCMedia created a video featuring the Quince Orchard Library English Conversation Club that explains the concept and the benefits for participants and volunteers, including interviews with Ann Stillman, the former Quince Orchard Library Manager, participants, and facilitators.

Facilitators lead the sessions and introduce topics to spark comments and discussions about the similarities and differences between American and other cultures.

Here are samples of recent discussions from our facilitators:

“Walter and I had seven total participants. Four regulars, two from China, one from Korea, and one from Iran, and three participants new to the Saturday class from Iran, Korea, and China. Discussion topics covered “anything interesting that happened to them last week” and “what is their passion/goal to keep them busy and engaged in life.” Additional topics included the bucket list and interesting travel locations. It was noted that people still had difficulty pronouncing the words like“world” vs. “word.” –Hank

Participants gathered around a table
Tuesday Morning English Conversation Club

“Walter and I had 11 participants yesterday, some regulars and some brand-new. After introductions, we split into two groups. Walter’s group mostly talked about communication. My group talked about reading books, including classics and children’s books, and ways to listen to spoken English for improvement (radio, news, songs, podcasts). We also talked about Veterans Day, and we learned that in South Korea and China, that is a big shopping day sponsored by a candy 
manufacturer. We moved on to Black Friday and the shopping frenzy that goes with that, again learning from our Korean participant that people in South Korea order items online on Black Friday because of the amazing deals (even accounting for shipping and customs duties)! We had a brief discussion of the recent practice of opening stores on Thanksgiving, and what that means for employees of those stores. Overall, a very engaged group as always.” –Bernadette

On August 15, 2018, the MCPL Library Matters Podcast published Chatting with Friends – MCPL’s English Conversation Clubs, a conversation featuring Nancy Sillcox, Quince Orchard Library librarian, and Annie Etches, one of our English Conversation Club facilitators.

Nancy explained the purpose of the Conversation Clubs. “Well for many English speakers or English learners, I think the hardest part is speaking. I think that’s the most difficult part of learning a new language. And so at our Conversation Clubs, our facilitators, make them very comfortable, make them relaxed, and they ask the right questions, so get them talking and speaking. Also it helps them with listening to the language as well. And we depend on our facilitators to help our English learners to develop the speaking skills and I think they do a great job”
Participants gathered around a table
Tuesday Morning English Conversation Club
Nancy also spoke about the structure of the sessions at Quince Orchard. “They have three tables and each table has a volunteer that helps about five to eight people and they have a lesson plan where everyone talks about the same topic. At the Thursday Conversation Club, each of the volunteers have their own topic that they want to talk about. So they decide what topic they want to talk about.  In the Saturday Conversation Club, it’s just whatever the participants want to talk about, if they want to talk about politics, you know, something is happening, they would talk about that or food or anything that was happening in current events. It’s like, it’s the mix and there is no organization to their talk.  And I think they like it that way. Participants in a Saturday one, they just like this very loose format and then the Tuesday evening I think there is only one volunteer, oh actually I am sorry there is two volunteers and I think they just bring up a topic and then they discuss it.”

Annie remarked on the camaraderie of these groups. “I love the idea that every Tuesday morning I have people from all around the world who are sitting there enjoying each others’ company even if they don’t always understand quite what’s being said, you know.  And one day we had a I think there were about 12 people at my table, … And a guy from Iran, we had all been laughing and joking about I don’t know what now, maybe food or something, and just before we finished he just said, “Everybody I think it’s so wonderful that we can sit here. We are all different, different countries, different religions, different ideas and yet we all get along and we love meeting together.” And that to me summed up what I want life to be about and it was just great.”

For more information, check out this link for MCPL Libraries with Conversation Clubs and other helpful resources for English Learners.

The Quince Orchard Conversation Clubs meet three times a week for English: 
Tuesday at 10:00 AM, Thursday at 10:00 AM and Saturday at 10:00 AM 
and once a week for Spanish: 
Monday at 6:00 PM.

Please join us at one of these special sessions.
Thank you to all of our participants and, especially, to our Volunteer Facilitators.