The ringing of a doorbell. The sound of a beater creaming butter and sugar. Orders shouted every few seconds muffling the cracking of the eggs. “I need a spatula.” “Give me two more mixing bowls.” “These have to be very, very cold. Put them in the frig right away.” The doorbell chiming again..and again…and again. Intense concentration for brief intervals, then fifteen mouths all babbling at once. Two people left standing on the porch, because eventually the doorbell can’t be detected over the din. Husband trapped in his workshop for hours. Welcome to “Talk Time,” another term for chaos.
Seriously, Talk Time is supposed to be a formal English conversation experience for people who are not native speakers. My friend Linda, who has been leading her particular group for years, found the “official” structure too confining, so has adjusted her sessions to respond to whatever the participants want and need. Traditionally, she has invited them to make Christmas cookies with her, but with her house undergoing a remodel she was unable to do this. That’s where my kitchen came into the picture. The result of today’s Talk Time? Lot’s of conversation in English, but also in Japanese and Korean. The only Chinese speaker was left to fend for herself, which she easily did because her English was so good. Everyone left with boxes of pink frosted Valentine’s cookies, lemon bars, and a rolled-up cookie with a German-sounding name, which was filled with orange marmalade, nuts, cinnamon and sugar. Apart from having fun together, I think the real benefit came when everyone sat down for a few minutes, introduced themselves (there were a few newcomers who had been invited by the regulars), and started trading information and tips to help each other navigate the world they are now living in, whether it be understanding the school system, the college application process, or even sharing information about a fixer-upper house for sale close to the parent’s school of choice, and a recommendation for a contractor. Immigrant families often need help building their own networks here and Linda’s version of Talk Time smooths the way.