More than a group.
Often conversation groups become more than a place to practice English. Many learners say they feel isolated in the United States, and the groups help them gain confidence and expand their social involvement in the community.
For some groups, they become a classroom/social club, where neighbors and friends are invited to join. Many friendships have developed from the groups, and support is always shown for new group members.
Topics for discussion vary week to week. Many conversation group leaders say they rarely need to put together a set lesson plan since learners come eager to practice speaking and are so willing to spark their own conversations. For example, recently, one learner wanted suggestions of "small talk" for an upcoming party. The groups can also provide a safe space for heated discussions about civil unrest and politics. One theme across the board is groups have a lot of laughs about American idioms and comparing America to their birth countries. Food also seems to be a discussion that people enjoy. One conversation group leader told me that many of her learners say dishes from their home countries taste different when made in America.
Many groups take field trips, such as to the library kitchen to bake muffins, visiting ethnic restaurants and American diners, and even trips to the Morton Arboretum, Cantigny, and Chicago!