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Digging Deeper in American Conversations

When several “repeat” students signed up for our fall 2018 American Conversations class, we were encouraged: these expat spouses had found the course helpful after taking it once or twice previously, and they wanted to join again! But having repeat students also meant that we needed to develop some new topics to freshen up the content for the 8-week course.

Elissa Hardy-Schafer and I decided to dig a little deeper with our topics as we prepared to teach 4 weeks each. In past courses, we had kept things basic and concrete, with topics such as holidays, travel, cooking and so on. This time, we veered toward the complex and abstract, with subjects such as fear, curiosity, stress, beauty, body image and minimalism.

“Having several students who already knew each other, and whose English was on the higher side, allowed us to explore more personal and potentially sensitive topics,” Elissa said.

Some of the topics would have been too difficult for these students’ everyday conversations with Americans, she pointed out. But the class context gave them the support and input they needed — teaching them the needed vocabulary, for example, and then giving them relevant discussion questions to allow them to practice in pairs or small groups.

The deeper topics kept the interest level up, too, especially for the women in the class who had already been in the U.S. several months or more. As a teacher, I enjoyed researching and preparing for the more intriguing themes as well as learning from the students, as they shared their experiences and opinions in class.

Students in the Fall 2018 class said that the best things about the class were “meeting people of different origins,” “socializing with the other ladies,” and the chance “to be together and to discover new places.”

Registration is now open for the Winter 2019 American Conversations course, which will run January 10–February 28 (Thursday mornings, 9:30-11:30 a.m.), meeting at various cafes and other public locations. Class size is minimum 5, maximum 8, and participation is open to any expat spouses with an English level of at least low intermediate (able to maintain a conversation on a familiar topic). Cost is $245 for 16 hours of class; all materials included.