Volunteer Spotlight: Daniel Friedman

Talk Time Host

by Donna Childs, MCL volunteer

Talk Time is a library program for people from around the world to practice English conversation.  For 11 years, Daniel Friedman has hosted such Monday afternoon conversations at Central Library. What keeps him coming back all these years?  According to Daniel, it’s the people he has met, and their patience, warmth, and generosity with each other, and their inspiring optimism and courage.  Talk Time has helped Daniel shed his own stereotypes and taught him more about the world. Most importantly, he believes this is a way to effect small changes and to feel more hopeful; though, he admits to understandable fury at the cruel treatment many immigrants currently receive in the United States.  

According to Daniel, Talk Time attracts people with a wide range of conversational abilities, from those not literate in their native languages to PhDs with good English skills:  “a day laborer from Guatemala to a post-doc from Iraq.” Some participants have attended language schools and want to supplement their grammar and vocabulary lessons with conversation, such as one attendee, a bus driver from Budapest, Hungary, who attends Talk Time when he visits Portland every couple years.  

Daniel sees his chief objective as encouraging everyone to speak. Sometimes the program begins with a theme or a conversation-starting question; other times, attendees talk about themselves. He uses a computer and an overhead projector to search a new word or place that arises in conversation and share it with everyone.  Daniel also projects vocabulary words and then emails the list to participants. The number of attendees at the 90-minute sessions has ranged from about seven to more than 20. There are two hosts each program, so the group divides in half when needed, to allow everyone to talk.

Although Daniel began volunteering with digital literacy classes for older adults and tutoring at the library, Talk Time is a natural fit for him. A retired professor of psychology, he is comfortable leading conversations, and he has long been interested in the immigrant experience. In fact, he made an award-winning film about four teens from India in Atlanta, which has been used in many college classrooms.  In these times of such difficulty for many immigrants, it is encouraging to know that those who attend Talk Time sessions find support in Daniel and his fellow hosts. For more information about the library's Talk Time program, please visit multcolib.org/events/talk-time.


A few facts about Daniel

Home library: Central

Currently reading:  Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity by Lilliana Mason

Most influential book:  Practical Ethics by Peter Singer

Favorite book from childhood:  Mad Magazine

A book that made you laugh or cry:  Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. 

Favorite section of the library:  Social Science

E-reader or paper book?  My Huawei Mediapad X2 tablet: a nine-ounce branch library in my backpack!

Favorite reading guilty pleasure: American Splendor by Harvey Pekar

Favorite place to read:  On a bench in Jamison Square park

Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! Read last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

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