EASTHAMPTON — The Easthampton Public Library is starting Conversation Circles to assist new English language learners in learning the language as well as becoming more a part of the community.

“While we certainly do meet new residents and their families whose first languages aren’t English, we worry that we are not offering enough content for new Americans and new English speakers, and have been making multi-pronged efforts to increase our accessibility and outreach to those populations,” explained Katya Schapiro, director of Easthampton Public Library. “In creating the Conversation Circles, we are attempting to meet a known need but also, through increased outreach, to increase our understanding of local needs.”

This first-time program will meet two times per week for five weeks and offer the language learners the opportunity to practice their speaking skills and meet new people. With a guided discussion format, the facilitator, Merri Ansara, will select the topic choice, flow and technique. With no minimum or maximum number of attendees, the program will adjust to meet the needs of those present.

“This program is designed for new English speakers to practice in a comfortable and welcoming environment and to gain confidence in general communication and in the communication skills needed in ordinary everyday life situations,” noted Schapiro.

Conversation Circles has five main goals: improving speakers’ pronunciation, building vocabulary including slang and idioms that can be more challenging for new speakers to understand, building cross-cultural skills, gaining confidence when speaking English and building life skills that participants might need for tasks like seeking medical care, opening bank accounts or job searches and interviews.

Students are welcome to attend both weekly sessions or just one if that best suits their schedule. The library is also open to adjusting the schedule after the program begins and the group forms if there are better days or times for those attending.

Schapiro explained that they aren’t sure how many new English speakers are in Easthampton, but they do have some rough estimates based on data from the schools.

The initial round of sessions will run for five weeks, having begun on Feb. 17 and 20. On Saturdays, the program will run from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and Tuesdays will be 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.. Anyone interested in registering for the program or wanting more information can contact Schapiro at kschapiro@ewmlibrary.org.