Conversation Circles

ESL class

On occasion, I help out in an English conversation circle at the Saint Paul Arlington Hills library on Thursday nights. This has been a great experience in addition to volunteering at Metro North – the format is casual, as we break into small groups based on language ability and just talk for about an hour. It’s easy to connect with learners on an individual level, and if possible, we encourage the learners to select topics and initiate conversation.

At the conversation circle this week, I met an incredibly inspiring learner. Marco has been in the United States for three years and only began taking English classes this past January. I had split off with a group of three advanced learners, and it was readily apparent that his language skills were the most sophisticated in the room. His passionate drive to learn English seemed to radiate out of him, affecting all those around him.

He told me that his top three goals are to 1) learn English, 2) learn English and 3) learn English. Marco holds two jobs and goes to English classes at two different adult learning centers when his schedule permits, in addition to the English conversation circle. He wakes up at two or three in the morning to deliver newspapers, and then goes to his full time job at a moving company, sometimes in total working up to 16-20 hour days. Marco said he attends English classes as much as he can; he spoke appreciatively of teachers who were willing to give him lessons to take home to study. In spite of his seemingly impossible schedule, Marco did not complain. He simply said that it was all necessary for him to learn English, and that nothing could get in the way of this goal. His family – his wife and two young daughters – live in Guatemala. When he has learned what he has deemed to be enough English, Marco will return to his native country to teach his daughters the language so that they will have more opportunities in life.

Marco asked the other learners in the group about their learning goals. One of the other learners in my group told me that Marco has been instrumental in his English language learning process, saying that when he feels to tired to go to class, he thinks of Marco and all he has sacrificed to learn English. He said that Marco inspires him to continue his education, something that he views as necessary to survive and be successful in the United States. Marco’s tenacious attitude and work ethic obviously inspire those around him, students and teachers alike.

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