You will start your first session by getting to know the volunteers who will be working with you, and telling them a little about yourself (Where do you live? Where are you from? What do you do? How have you learned English/Spanish? What brought each of you to Costa Rica/to this conversation group?) Then, you'll dive into this tasty first topic: food. Possible discussions include your favorite foods, food-related traditions in your family, or special places to dine out. You might even exchange recipes, or restaurant recommendations!
This week, you and your volunteer will talk about family - your family now, or your family background, as you prefer! Do you live with parents, siblings, roommates, a spouse? Do you have children? Where is your family from originally? These are some of the first questions we're usually asked in any language, so it's good to practice them!
This week, discuss your communities - the people, places and traditions that define them. Where are you from? Where do you live now? What are your favorite things about your home and community? What are some special characteristics of communities in Costa Rica? (One special characteristic is the way we find our way around - what is the street address of your house? Are there any landmarks used for directions in your community? How would you tell foreign tourists how to get around?)
Friendship is an important part of life. This week, discuss friends - from childhood friends, to adult friends, to Man's Best Friend. The sky's the limit. What do you do for fun with your friends? Has your group of friends changed over the years, or remained the same? Do you have friends in many different places? Have you ever had a penpal?
What do you like to do in your free time? Movies, music, TV, sports, theater? What are some differences between free-time activites in Costa Rica, and in other countries? Trade some suggestions with your partner regarding favorite places, shows, and CDs to check out!
¡Hola! ¿Como está? In this program, pretty much all of us are language learners, whether of English, Spanish, or another language! Why is learning a language important to you? What helps and hinders your learning? Do you like to be corrected frequently, or to work freely on your fluency? Do you like to read and study in your free time, or is that unrealistic for you? Discuss these issues together - and discuss what your partner would like to focus on and achieve as these conversation sessions continue. This is a great time to find out more about your partner's goals and preferences.
During this week we will explore different holidays and their meaning to you and your family. From Valentine's Day to Halloween, we will venture into the similarities and differences of each holiday; how these holidays are celebrated (or not celebrated!) in differen cultures; and how eac is celebrated in your household.
Although a conversation topic such as Clothes and Fashion may seem trivial, such subject can lead to intense conversations. Because we all have different opinions about the newest trends and their impact on society, the week meeting will be anything but boring! From piercings to tie-dye shirts, tattoos and wedges, what is your sense of style? Do you believe that your style determines who you are? How fashion-oriented are you?
From the greatest cities of the world to our own, each one has its own charm, culture and past. As time goes by and we get to know the city's busy streets, we learn all of the hidden places, such as the cheapest yet most delicious restaurant, the prettiest parks, or even the nicest dry-cleaners. What is your city like? Have you lived there your entire life? Does you feel that your city represents you?
As the Costa Rican population becomes more aware of and affected by health issues, it is necessary to reflect on our eating and hygiene habits. Talking about some of these topics will not only help improve your English proficiency, but might be useful or educational in other ways as well. What do you do to try to ensure good health for yourself and your family? How are healthy habits different in the cultures represented in your conversation group? Here's to your health...
By this time, your conversation group is well acquainted and has probably taken on a life of its own – but it’s always helpful to have good ideas to get conversation started! Below please find various topics suggested by our volunteers and partners (the first instalment comes from James Overstreet in Santo Domingo de Heredia – thank you James!). Please recommend new topics and other ideas by posting them on this blog, or writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Travel is something everyone loves to do, wither it's here in Costa Rica or to a far away place. There are so many ways to travel, such as by car, bus, plane or ship, and all are fun. Some people hate to fly, some hate the water, and some love it all. To get conversation started, have group members bring in photos or mementoes from a favorite trip; a map of Costa Rica to spark memories of great travel moments; guidebooks, or a travel story from The Tico Times. Is anyone in the group taking a trip soon within Costa Rica? Help that person plan their trip!
Shopping is something we all have to do for some reason or another, even if we hate to shop. Some hate shopping for certain things like for a car, or furniture, clothes, groceries - and then you have the "addict shopper" who loves to shop for anything and everything. Which shopping personality are you? Do you have any shopping horror stories? What are your favorite places around town to shop? If possible, the whole conversation group can take a field trip to a nearby supermarket or other store - a goldmine for new vocabulary!
Most people love pets whither they own one or not, such as dogs, cats, birds or reptiles. Do you own a pet, or did you have a pet as a child? How have your pets shaped or changed your life? How do you feel about having your pets spayed or neutered? Other activities involving this topic include brainstorming names of pets you've known throughout your life and talking about the meaning, to build some wacky vocab - Max? Fluffernutter? Sparky? - and looking at photos of group members' prized pets.
Costa Rica is a paradise for gardeners, but most take it for granted because you throw a twig on the ground and it grows. Whither you are growing orchids or the lowly impatient, it is easy and fun. Do you do gardening or or do you just have potted plants? Do you grow vegetables or yard plants? If you don't garden, do you dream of having one someday? This topic is a great source of new vocab (fruit, vegetables, plants common in Costa Rica, and other countries). Residents might bring in photos of mystery plants they've seen around their neighborhood, so the group can help explain what they are; or talk about recipes for some of those special fruits and vegetables that are unique to Costa Rica.