After years of volunteering in a local cancer center, basically sitting and chatting with patients as they sat the long hours receiving their infusions, or visiting bedside and sitting and chatting as they waited endless hours for family members to finally get off work or out of school to come keep them company, I had a patient in my own family. I’ve gone into that story before, so without more ado about that I will just say that when I wanted to return to some sort of volunteer activity, I decided to give my chatting expertise over to a different field. I found an agency in my town that tutored ESL students at all levels.
I meet a Thai woman every Monday morning at the library. She is at the intermediate level, meaning she has a good vocabulary, is literate, but her grammar, punctuation and pronunciation needs lots of work. I am not a teacher by training. I am a writer and a chatterer. I know my grammar and I speak endlessly. The match was made in heaven. Like many immigrants with young children, my student is isolated; busy raising her girls, has few American or English speaking friends, and primarily associates with her Thai community. Chatting with me, she not only hears how words are spoken, but hears the idioms, the use of past tense in most conversations, and so many other things I can’t even begin to teach a busy grown person, lesson by lesson. After two months she is already starting her own blog, and we have both made a new friends!