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No Loss For Words As Immigrants And Refugees Chat With Tacoma Locals At 'Talk Time'

Tacoma Community House
A Talk Time volunteer chats with English as a second language (ESL) students at Tacoma Community House

 A 107-year-old Tacoma organization that started in the Hilltop neighborhood to help Italian and Irish immigrants adapt to their new home is still busy today.  At Tacoma Community House refugees and immigrants, along with volunteers, are never at a loss for words.

To understand what goes on during “Talk Time” at Tacoma Community House, you have to put yourself in the shoes of an immigrant. Maybe you left your home country; you might be fearful; you might not have family or very much money.

"Just imagine all those other obstacles in your way, much less trying to learn a new language as an adult," said Tim Close, communications director at Tacoma Community House.

Every month, people who are learning English as a second language pair up with local volunteers — no experience necessary — to have a stress-free conversation ranging on topics from food to democracy.

The easy chatting takes the abstract concept of what it means to be an immigrant and puts it in the realm of real life.

"They've met somebody, it's real and these are people who want the American Dream and they want to learn and English, and get a job, and better their lives," Close said.

At any given session, students may come from 15 different countries. For them, it’s a safe place to practice English.  For volunteers, it’s a glimpse of what it’s like to begin a new life.