Boise Public Library Hosts Informal Conversation Hour for Non-English Speakers 

click to enlarge BOISE PUBLIC LIBRARY
  • Boise Public Library
Alene Hortin’s passion and drive for helping the refugee community in Boise stems from her years at Boise State University where she minored in Refugee Studies. Since then, Hortin has worked toward welcoming new Americans into the fold of Idaho life with the English Conversation Hour program she runs at the Hillcrest branch of the Boise Public Library.

“Once you have a good grip of the language that is spoken in your community you can be more self-assured once you are out in public and you are socializing," said Hortin. "[This program] helps [non-English speakers] have more self-assurance while they are here.”

The English Conversation Hour is held at the Library! at Hillcrest each Tuesday evening. The program welcomes all non-English speakers who are eager to practice their conversation skills in an informal and safe environment. The conversations range from history, health, culture, to more Idaho-specific topics such as outdoor recreation. Each month, they focus on different topics that aide in refugees and immigrant’s ability to find a home in Idaho. Hortin explained that for the entire month of June, the group is focusing on language skills pertaining to transportation and technology.

Hortin, library assistant at the Hillcrest branch and program organizer, understands the needs and struggles of those who are new to America. She said changing countries is a difficult adjustment for people, particularly adults; and having a safe, neutral place to practice English skills is a vital resource. Many adult refugees and immigrants who have previously gone through English Second Language aka ESL classes, no longer have a formal opportunity to practice what they've learned. 

“Yes, we are reaching people," said Hortin. "It's helping them so they can better get along in our society.”

Hortin said one visitor to the The English Conversation Hour, a stay at home mom from Korea, rarely has the opportunity to work on her English. At home, her husband insists they speak Korean, yet he has a job where he speaks English daily. The woman is rarely exposed to English, so she comes to the Hillcrest branch to work with other non-English speakers and practice her conversation, greatly improving her ability to find her place in Idaho.

“It is really inspiring.” Said Hortin. “People who come here as refugees are so hard working and they want to get off assistance as fast as they can. They want to be independent. Their stories are so inspiring.”
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