Posts Tagged ‘International Conversation Café’

The wonderful world of our international conversation gatherings has begun again. We’ve had participants from Germany, China, Brazil, and India so far this semester. With me, the U.S. representative, facilitating and teaching. My roots are Italian and Japanese.

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 6.17.18 PM

News of world events peppers our conversation, as does talk of intercultural similarities and differences. And of local events. Music festivals have been popping up in the Triangle area, so they’ve been bandied around the conversation table ~ Durham’s Centerfest, the Hopscotch fest, the Carrboro Musical Festival, and Raleigh’s La Fiesta del Pueblo. Those have all concluded, but the annual International Festival returns to Raleigh in October.

Last week, in addition to discussing local music festivals and world events, our focus turned to language. And I taught our group about understanding some reduced speech. Whaddya gonna do fa fun this weekend?

Why is understanding reduced speech important? Because if you’re struggling to understand the style of speaking here in the U.S., particularly by students, it helps to know how their words might sound as they become squashed together.

We coulda, shoulda, woulda gone to the music festival if we’d hadda ride.

Here is more information about reduced speech if you’d like to take a look.

If you’re a member of the Duke community, feel free to join us on a Thursday afternoon at 12:30.  Look us up on events@duke: International Conversation Café.

I hope to seeya (see you) there,
Rene Caputo
Duke University ESL Specialist and Lecturing fellow


Read Full Post »

daffodils photo

(photo credit:  Rene D. Caputo)

March Madness is in the air around the country ~ and definitely here in North Carolina. Many fans are watching collegiate basketball as teams compete to be national champion. Just around the bend, the men’s and women’s tournaments will hold games featuring their Final Four teams on April 1, 2, and 3.

Another sure sign that spring has arrived in our corner of the word? Pollen’s in the air, on trees, cars, our hair, and everywhere. Clouds of yellow dust are floating through the air. The rain thankfully knocks that yellow to the ground now and then.

In addition to basketball and pollen, March and April bring the New Year to some cultures. If you are celebrating in this season, we wish you the best in your new year.

And April Fool’s Day is just around the corner. Be ready for some silly pranks on the first of April. In France, the day is known as Poission d’avril, or April Fish. Children there apparently sometimes tape a paper fish to the back of their friends’ clothes…a bit of lightheartedness in the midst of other seriousness.

Join in our international conversation gathering this Thursday. We tend to cover the spectrum from silly to serious as the hour goes by. We’ll be in the Bryan Center’s Griffith Board room starting at 12:30. See you there!

~ Rene D. Caputo, Duke University ESL Specialist

Read Full Post »


(photo credit:  Rene D. Caputo)

Happy solar and lunar New Year to all!

Our International Conversation Café is back in full swing for the semester. In our two opening gatherings, topics discussed included the election, the inauguration, other current events, and New Year’s celebrations.

The tradition in the United States is to celebrate the New Year’s arrival on January 1, but for many cultures here and around the world, the year begins on other dates. Celebrants of lunar New Year (sometimes called Chinese New Year) ushered in the year of the Fire Rooster this weekend.

Duke University has some belated celebrations of the Lunar New Year in February.

Other New Year’s festivities around the world include a Sri Lankan solar festival in April, Rosh Hashanah in September/October, and Diwali in October/November.

Wishing you and yours well no matter when you celebrate.  Join us this Thursday at 12:30 in the Bryan Center’s Griffith Boardroom for our next discussion group.

~ Rene D. Caputo, Duke University ESL Specialist

Read Full Post »

The leaves are falling as rain showers continue here in Durham, NC. And two gas stations near Duke University show a price of $0.00 in bright numbers. No, it’s not a dream world, but instead is due to the pipeline break further south. And life continues on…

Speaking of continuing on, our International Conversation Café gathering resumes its weekly run tomorrow. Join us in Griffith Board Room, Bryan Center main floor, at 12:30!

We recently hosted 10 participants whose homelands included Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, and South Korea. We chatted about the Centerfest street fair and the Durham farmers market, held year round. Duke’s own farmers market came up as well, but that’s now wrapping up for the season.

Participants traded ideas about studios offering Pilates and yoga, then discussed several beach destinations (Wrightsville Beach, Topsail Island, the Outer Banks) to consider for coastal adventures. Other topics jumped in along the way.

Upcoming conversation gatherings: Thursdays, September 22 and 29th, then October 6 and 13. Duke University students, visiting scholars and researchers, staff, faculty, and spouses are welcome.  No registration is necessary. Griffith Board Room, Bryan Center main floor, 12:30 to 1:30.  Come join us!

Rene D. Caputo, Duke University ESL Specialist
Thompson Writing Program and Writing Studio

Read Full Post »

Our International Conversation Café got off to a great start on Thursday, with nine participants from around the world ~ plus me. What came up?

Romance Studies: A Parisian participant talked a little about his field. And about how some people were not sure what “romance studies” actually meant. Laughter ensued.

Labor Day: Participants were used to celebrating in May. And without classes! Chinese participants said that workers there would typically get one day off in addition to the weekend (and that the holiday was previously longer).

How to improve speaking & conversation skills? After various conversation opportunities were highlighted, I suggested using a Writing Studio handout I created. http://twp.duke.edu/uploads/media_items/listening-conversation.original.pdf

And how about writing skills? Two student attendees learned about Writing Studio appointments: http://twp.duke.edu/twp-writing-studio

We wrapped things up with by chatting for a bit about various street fairs and other entertainment in the area, including:

Happy fall semester, Rene

Rene Caputo
Duke ESL Specialist, Thompson Writing Program
Instructor, English for International Students

Read Full Post »

A lively group came together for our International Conversation Café gathering yesterday. Ten participants, from Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, Turkey ~ plus me, from the United States via Italy and Japan. We started off by playing with idiomatic, metaphorical language related to food and eating, including: He’s a peach (he’s nice, sweet), that’s a piece of cake (that’s easy), and that’s not my cup of tea (I don’t like that). Then we got to a good/bad apple or egg. In Japan and South Korea, we learned, an orange might be mentioned instead.

In South Korea, a watermelon would represent someone who was untrustworthy, as the colors inside and out are so distinctly different. The big cheese, someone important, would be a big bowl in Turkey.  And someone who eats little could be a bird (U.S.), a rabbit (Australia), or a turtle (China) while someone who eats a lot might be a bear (Turkey) or a wolf/tiger/dog (China).

I love these peeks inside other cultures. Ready for more food idioms? Check out:

We then talked about how food has shifted in the Triangle of North Carolina. Years ago, it was impossible to find sushi here!  And fresh bagels were unheard of; there were only Lender’s Bagels, found in the freezer section of the grocery store. This history offers details on bagels from ancient times through to the Lender family and today: http://www.slate.com/articles/life/food/2008/11/a_short_history_of_the_bagel.html   Short: http://homecooking.about.com/od/foodhistory/a/bagelhistory.htm

Finally, in touching on the Super Bowl, one participant mentioned being told he’d have an 1.5 hour wait to get “buffalo wings” that day.  He ate something else, not surprisingly!  In wrapping up, we learned that Australian football is different not only from U.S. football, but also from soccer. Check it out on YouTube, our Australian participant advised.  I might just do that!

Perhaps we’ll see you next Thursday, when our group meets again in Duke’s Bryan Center, Griffith Board Room, 12:30.

Until then, Rene

Rene Caputo
ESL Specialist, Thompson Writing Program

Read Full Post »

Our International Conversation Café gathers on Thursday afternoons. And today, we covered an incredibly wide range of topics. Read on and you can imagine you were with us there.

Chapel Hill Halloween: Friday, Oct. 31, 9 pm to midnight. Want to join the large crowd of people walking around and looking at everyone’s costumes? Be prepared to walk for a while from wherever you park. And do not bring alcohol or anything that looks like a weapon. Read the details here…and stay alert if you go: http://www.townofchapelhill.org/town-hall/departments-services/parks-recreation/festivals-events/homegrown-halloween (Downtown Franklin Street). See a video from 2013 here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWsCH6qSMRg

University Mall Trick or Treating: Friday, Oct., 31, 5 to 7 pm. Children up to 12 years old are invited to enjoy this indoor event: http://www.universitymallnc.com/event/university-mall-spooktacular/2145445717 (201 South Estes Drive, Chapel Hill)

Carrboro Halloween Carnival: Friday, Oct. 31. This is a family-friendly outdoor event held beside town hall. The Carrboro Recreation and Parks Facebook site says it “will be held from 6:00pm – 8:30pm on October 31st at Carrboro Town Commons. Children will have the opportunity to make a craft and win prizes playing a variety of carnival games. Popcorn, Cider, Hot Chocolate will be available for purchase at the concession booth.” (301 West Main Street, Carrboro)

The Day of the Dead is a time to remember those who have departed. Learn about this traditional early November observance as celebrated in Peru: http://enperublog.com/2011/11/29/day-of-the-dead-in-peru/  And in Mexico: http://www.mexicansugarskull.com/support/dodhistory.html

Perhaps you will see some devil costumes on Halloween. Do you know where the name Blue Devils came from? Find out in The Story of the Duke Mascot on the Duke Libraries website. Learn the origin of the name Blue Devils and see if people were worried about having a devil as a mascot. http://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/uarchives/history/articles/bluedevil

And now, food! One person asked today how we could make light (not dense and heavy) Irish Soda Bread. I said that the key was to not mix the ingredients together for very long and to not handle the dough (flour mixture) much. I have not tested these recipes, but reading them makes me want to bake some soda bread.

Basic soda bread recipe with video: (Remember: Do not mix it much. And just knead it for a few seconds. You can cut the top with a knife. And you could add a bit of currants or raisins if desired.) http://www.joyofbaking.com/IrishSodaBread.html

Recipes that explain the details well: http://www.dochara.com/the-irish/food-recipes/irish-soda-bread/ Brown bread: http://www.dochara.com/the-irish/food-recipes/irish-brown-bread/  From a famous chef, this one includes butter, egg, and yes, currants:

While we’re on food, one participant asked where she might find cookies made with ginger (as I’d brought some with me) in Durham. I suggested looking for ginger snaps in the cookie aisle.   Not surprisingly, there are plenty of recipes for ginger snaps online.

On a more serious note, there are many recent stories online about Ukraine’s election and its gas deal with Russia. Here’s one story about the gas deal: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/30/us-ukraine-crisis-gas-idUSKBN0II0XQ20141030

And finally, don’t forget to turn your clocks back when you go to bed this Saturday night or Sunday morning. It’s that time again. (Note: Computers and cell phones usually adjust themselves.)

Join us next Thursday at 12:30 for the next conversation gathering in the Bryan Center’s Griffith Board Room.

Enjoy the fall….and the Halloween festivities!
Rene Caputo

Duke ESL Specialist
Thompson Writing Program

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »