I looked forward to Thursdays because whatever else was going on in my life I knew that I’d get new perspective, I’d learn something new and there would almost always be a great discussion about delicious food.
My Thursdays included helping instruct a great group of ladies in an ESL class at the Winters Branch of the Yolo County Library. We were the “advanced” class that focused on conversation and over time, we built a real sense of comraderie and shared stories, recipes, sadness and joy. We crossed cultures and shared traditions from Columbia, Venezuela, Mexico and right here in the US. We talked turkey, tortillas, strange English words and verbs, and why so many of our words have many meanings. For example, this book is very interesting: I would like to book a flight to New York. Confusing words for non-native English speakers.
We shared news of our families, trips and jobs and supported each other through interviews and classes at the community college, but mostly we just became friends who through ordinary circumstances would probably not have known each other. What a rich and rewarding experience we would have all missed out on.
The desire to learn English and sound like a native speaker was there for them all. They wanted to know what words to use, how to understand our slang and in one particular case one of the ladies wanted to know what a word meant that was being used by her teenage sons. It was not a great word, but in class it was fine to bring it up, discuss it and know it was not a word she wanted them to use.
Our most fun discussions often centered on food and recipes. In one great class exercise we asked each one to record a short video on their phones of them making their favorite recipes. They were all stars and could easily be tapped for the Food Network, not to mention sharing delicious recipes that we then could try at home.
For our class, the library was the hub of information sharing, cross-cultural exchange and developing new friendships. We still stay in touch and think of each other fondly, hoping that Covid has not had too much of an impact. Without the warm welcome and support at the Winters Library this group would not have stuck together. The story time held at the same time allowed the Moms to bring their young children who always had a fun time. Where would we be without our local library?
by Marcia Gibbs, WFoL member and volunteer with the English Conversation Group program of the Yolo County Library