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women’s English conversation circle

I spent my morning talking to Nurun, Foyzun, Yung, Fahmidi, Seema, Touria and others, at the first Regent Park English Conversation Group – nine women, six from Bangladesh, one each from Casablanca, Eritrea and Hong Kong. One brought two small children and her mother with her, her mum who speaks no English at all. The point of the group is to give immigrant women a chance to chat in English with native English speakers, that’s all, and every so often, to give them a gentle grammar correction and/or to try to help with things they might need to know. Margot, who came to help me, suggested to them that they watch children’s television shows with described audio, which I think is a great idea.

We were getting to know each other not just through language but as women – talking about our children and grandchildren, our work, our lives. We laughed about winter, how desolate they find it, and they talked about how hard it was to leave family behind, though many of them, it seems, now have most family here with them. They were almost all in hijab, two in full niqab face veils which they removed in the room because we are women only, and have immense dignity and humour. One said she has already started digging her garden and will soon plant coriander and mustard seeds. I am going to learn a lot. They asked where I lived and were interested in how much my house is now worth. Very savvy.

If this works, I hope to create a template we can send across the city and the country, so that other English speakers can link with community centres and do the same thing. All it takes is a few of us who speak slowly and clearly and want to make a difference. I’m proud this idea of mine is taking shape! It’s a good to feel that one’s creative efforts might provide a pinprick of light during these dark days of our planet.

Believe it or not, my lungs still hurt and my energy is still low. Hard to comprehend. I went to the Y and could do very little. It makes me realize how much energy it takes to live life – I’ve let things go around here, have barely kept up with watering the plants, just don’t have the energy. But I’m still alive, the house is running, the lungs are improving slowly. Several people at the Y told me the only cure for the winter sicknesses – Jamaica, Barbados, Cuba. Get into the hot sun. If only.

One interesting thing for me is – wine. I’ve hardly had a drink for more than two weeks – wine just tastes terrible and that’s all I drink. I thought maybe that’s because I drink such cheap wine, and yesterday I opened a good bottle. Better, definitely, but still, only one glass when I usually drink 2 or 3. I’m not complaining. It does amaze me, though, that a habit I’ve had for decades can be broken in two weeks. Mind you, when my lungs and tastebuds return, I’m pretty sure my wine habit will too. Maybe not quite as much, though, which would be good.

Drinking a little glass right now. Another mild lovely day, though misty. The weather is a gift. Making new friends from far far away is too.



4 Responses to “women’s English conversation circle”

  1. Congratulations, Beth! This is a great initiative and I look forward to reading more here about how it goes. It's a play in the making. And congratulations, too, on your tenth So True event. You go girl!

  2. theresa says:

    I loved reading about the conversation circle. And yes, when I had pneumonia, I didn't want wine. It didn't last. When my energy came back, so came the lovely anticipation…

  3. Pat Butler says:

    I'm now Down Under and arrived in Melbourne today. Now that I have free WiFi again I was finally able to read your blog. What a terrific idea you have just started! Good on you, as they say in these parts.

  4. beth says:

    Thank you all for your great feedback. The idea for the group has been at the back of my mind for so long, I marvelled yesterday to see it come to life, so yes, it's a thrill. And yes, Theresa, I assume my taste for the grape will be back very soon. As of now, I seem to have developed a taste for only expensive wine. Wouldn'tcha know?

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I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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