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Talk Time, How To Do It

How to Have a TalkTime


1)   Overview

  •    a)   What’s a TalkTime? – It’s a conversation activity where ESL (English as a Second Language) speakers can practice informal English conversation.
  •    b)   Why do it? – We show love to the foreigners in our community, meet one of their primary needs while in the U.S., and have the opportunity to become friends and have significant relationships.

2)   Three TalkTime Models in the Seattle area

  •    a)   North End TalkTime – John Whitehouse (Campus Crusade).  Includes sports at the gym, then talk.  In the summer, John has 20-30 American interns join his program.
  •    b)   “Seattle’s Best” TalkTime – Rita Milligan (Faith Bible Church) includes dinner.  Hosted by a Japanese church and features Japanese food.
  •    c)   TalkTime at Westminster Chapel – Randy Richmond, Jani James.  Just talk, snacks and drinks, folk and Christian songs.  See the attached  “How To Use Your Hour Of Conversation” used by Westminster.

3)   How do you start a TalkTime?

  • a)   Recruit hosts – native English speakers from your church or ISI network
  • b)   Screen prospective hosts with an application/evaluation process
  • c)   Train hosts – see below
  • d)   Publicize – contact internationals in your area – flyers, announcements, roaming the campus with cards, word-of-mouth etc.
  • e)   Plan logistics – a suitable facility, transportation for carless internationals (almost every host may need to be available to drive internationals to/from the activity.)
  • f)     Choose a format – with or without food, music, games, icebreakers etc.
  • g)   Provide topic materials as desired.

4)   What do you talk about?

  • a)   topic website –
  • b)   book, magazine or newspaper article based discussions
  • c)   look at ESL teaching materials for ideas – in print or on the Internet
  • d)   ISI materials include “conversation starters”

5)   Training your hosts

  • a)   Required skills – listening, ability to adapt speech for ESL, cultural sensitivity, able to articulate basics of faith in a cross-culturally sensitive way
  • b)   Required character – psychologically mature in relationships (not “needy”), not seeking a girlfriend or boyfriend, living relationship with Jesus Christ
  • c)   Training tips
  • i)     ISI friendship partner training materials and other resources work great – get help from ISI staff
  • ii)    Use conversation role play, with or without international friends
  • iii)   New hosts can sit-in with experienced hosts
  • iv)  Utilize missionaries on home assignment as trainers

6)   Deepen relationships

  • a)   Individual hosts invite guests for home dinners, shared recreation/concerts/sports
  • b)   ICF (International Christian Fellowship) and other relaxed settings for Christian fellowship that are accessible to seekers
  • c)   ESL Bible study – group or one-on-one

7)   Pray without ceasing . . .

  • a)   In the planning, in the execution of your plan, for salvation and spiritual health of guests, for the spiritual health of the hosts, for fruit, for the laborers (recruitment of hosts and team) – apart from God we can do nothing!


TalkTime Host – How to Use Your Hour of Conversation

 with Intermediate ESL Speakers 

1.              Current TalkTime Format

  • a)              7:00pm – 7:20pm  Welcome and greet TalkTime guests and hosts, offer refreshments, assist with name tags.  Leader will assign you to a partner.  However, feel free to make a suggestion to the leader if you wish to partner with a particular guest.
  • b)             7:20pm – 8:20pm One Hour of Conversation
  • c)              8:20pm – 8:30pm Music and/or Announcements

2.              Basic Ratio:  1/3, 2/3 – you talk 1/3, they talk 2/3 of the time.

  • a)              Allow silence, so that your guest has time to think, translate, ask questions or change the subject
  • b)             Keep your own stories brief.  Give the short version!
  • c)              Minimize use of idioms.  Speak slowly and enunciate.

3.              One Hour of Conversation:

  • a)              Basic info
  • i)               Question – “What’s going on in your life this week?”
  • ii)             If it’s  your first time to meet with someone ask them to “Tell me about yourself – your family, your work, school, where you’re from, why you’re in the U.S., anything”
  • iii)            Reciprocate – what’s going on in your own life, tell about yourself briefly remembering the BASIC RATIO
  • b)             Question – Is there anything that you’d particularly like to talk about this week?   If not, go on to the topic provided.  (If you have multiple guests, make sure that an alternate topic is acceptable to all.)
  • c)              General Topic (see attached sample – 100+ topics available on the web at
  • i)               Let your ESL partners take turns reading the paragraphs above the line in the general topic section.
  • ii)             Discuss the topic, moving from question to question as you complete each one.
  • iii)            Discard questions that are not interesting to your partners.
  • iv)            Discard the entire topic if it is not working well.  (Turn over the topic sheet to the blank side and say, “well, what are some better topics we can talk about?”  List suggestions from partners and then choose.  If all else fails, choose “love” or “career” as a general purpose topic.  J
  • d)             Bible Verse Section
  • i)               Question:  “would you like to look at the Bible verse?”
  • ii)             If yes, read the Bible verse section and discuss
  • e)              Further discussion if there is time left over
  • i)               Continue the “tell me about yourself” line of questioning
  • ii)             Look at the conversation starters (available with ISI or online at topic website as a list of “mini-topics”) with your partners and pick something to talk about.

4.              With First-Time Guests

  • a)              Ask them to fill out a “Guest Information Sheet”
  • b)             If they write “yes” to interest in Christianity, ask them about their religious background.  Invite them to ESL Bible activities or a church/ISI activity appropriate for their English level.

5.              With All Guests

  • a)              Ask if they need a ride home. (Women drive women; men drive men.)
  • b)             Point out other current church events or ESL activities happening this month

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