Hailing from Madrid, Luis and Bea arrived in Hopkinton in August 2022 as part of an exchange program that brings teachers to Massachusetts. On a 3-year stint, he teaches science and she teaches math, both in Framingham public schools. From the beginning they wanted to settle with their children in a small town, one similar to the suburb where they were raising their children.
While they are both fluent English speakers, what is difficult to grasp are American idioms and cultural customs. Figures of speech that are common to native English speakers, such as “piece of cake” don’t translate directly in Spanish.
Shortly after arriving they visited the library and asked if they had any programs that could help them improve their conversational English. They were connected with Barbara Champney, Vice President of Friends of the Hopkinton Public Library and shortly after they enrolled in Conversation Circles, one of four programs the Friends provides for free to help English language learners.
The program is designed to provide an opportunity for English as Second Language (ELL) Learners to practice vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar in a fun, comfortable, and laid back environment. Each Conversation Circle uses guided conversations and real life situations to build language confidence.
Led by Janet Fannon and trained volunteers from Hopkinton, participants from more than 13 countries were represented, including Russia, Ukraine, Spain, China and India. The group met weekly in person and virtually, and took field trips to Cornell’s and Weston Nurseries to practice what they’d learned.
“We have learned a lot about American culture and celebrations from this program,” said Bea.
“For me, Conversation Circles was a place where we can practice. Sometimes it’s difficult to get practice because while we work in an English school, we teach primarily in Spanish,” added Luis.
Although they miss their friends in Madrid, the couple is enjoying their time in Hopkinton. They recently found a house for rent in the downtown area and look forward to meeting new friends and continuing to sharpen their English skills.
Learn more about Friends of the Hopkinton Public Library, and how you can get involved at their website.