Zoom Salons

Photo by Gabriel Benois on Unsplash

What are Zoom Salons? Practice your English in discussion circles from your home laptop through Zoom with a professional teacher and other learners. Participants watch a video clip or read an article (500 to 700 words) and meditate on some questions beforehand. We share opinions and ideas during the 55 minute Zoom Salon.

This project started during COVID to connect my 1:1 students to a group setting and we’re still going.

Who can come? A Salon has three or four people, but it’s not a class. I use it as a no-cost “add on” for current students, former students, prospective students and friends of friends to practice their social English skills in a group setting.

When and how often? We meet several times a week, usually late mornings Toronto time, which is EST or UTC -4. I am slowly adding other days and times to accomodate other time zones. You can check your time zone here: www.worldtimebuddy.com

Why Salons for learning English?

#1 It’s social. It is fun to practice English with others and hone your discussion skills on contemporary topics.

#2 It’s safe. This is a friendly space with no judgement. You’ll be encouraged to practice workplace communication skills like asking follow up questions, defending your opinions, unpacking your ideas, thinking on your feet, providing examples.

#3 It’s educational. Our focus is to get smarter and learn new things every week. Just sign up for the weekly newsletter to find out the theme for each week, and content recommendations geared for advanced English learners.

What is a Literary Salon?
Here are some definitions of a (literary) salon, paraphrased from around the web:

“Originating in the 17th century, literary salons were once the perfect training ground for aspiring authors, helping them refine their ideas and improve their writing.”

“A salon is a gathering of people held by an inspiring host. During the gathering they amuse one another and increase their knowledge through conversation. These gatherings usually aimed either to please or to educate.”

“The literary salon, the 18th-century gathering where intellectual giants would debate and inspire or infuriate each other, has been recently reborn for the 21st century, with new salons appearing throughout the country and on the internet. During the Enlightenment, salons established by charismatic individuals allowed the great talents of the age to discuss their writing – creating the work and ideas that changed the course of Britain’s artistic history. Many classic works would never have appeared without the semi-public gatherings. Now there are meetings once again, so members can bounce ideas off each other and read unfinished essays to gauge reaction before redrafting.”

Zoom Salon Past Topics:
Here are some of the topics that were discussed since the inception of the Zoom salons in April, 2021.


April 4 — top pandemic priorities for Canadians; job creation
April 18 — an article ‘On Hope’, Huawei and 5G
April 20 — the loss of the Tartar language, COVID impacts on the healthcare system
April 25 — an article ‘The Growing Threat to Free Speech Online’

May 2 — ‘The Growing Threat to Free Speech Online’ continuing…
May 9 — COVID passports in Germany, marathon running
May 16 — COVID passports continuing
May 23 — national identity, mobile ‘global professionals’
May 30 — empathy, burnout, mental health

June 10 — Scout mindset (TED), the Just World Hypothesis
June 13 — happiness as a way to measure GDP, Basic Income, the right to work
June 27 — Basic Income, the good life in Germany continuing…

July 2 — functional phrases for Zoom facilitation, communication on social media
July 11 — apps that we like (Garmin’s Strava, Anki, Noom)
July 25 — home ownership, housing affordability

August 2 — City of Ottawa eyes digital ‘surveillance’ of short-term rental platforms
August 8 — housing continuing… (accumulating wealth, an asset to borrow against, COVID evictions, Russian registration system to access schools and other services)
August 22 — the Video Game Industry, Clubhouse, Rocket League, Fortnight, Hunger Games
August 29 — putting imagination and creativity to work in the real world / Advice for a Life of Adventure, Beauty and Success

September 5 — your ikigai (purpose, earning a living, talents)
September 12 — WFH (working from home) is eroding our trust in one another
September 19 — WFH is eroding trust continuing…
September 26 — the Right to Repair movement

October 3 — German election, leaders of each party
October 10 — this “first past the post” system in Canada, Canada’s election
October 31 — bossware, remote working, privacy

November 14 — cognitive biases and adverse events influence vaccine decisions
November 21 — cognitive bias continuing…
November 28 — the 8Rs (rethink, reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse, recycle, recover, re-gift)


February 5 — coincidences, privacy, immigrants from countries with oppressive governments making their way in new countries
February 12 — truck conveys, vacations in Kuala Lumpur, raising tweens, chasing after teenagers, baby osteopaths, importance of good bedside manner for physicians
February 15 — Occam’s Razor, German proficiency exam, vaccinated truckers crossing the borders in Canada, the pioneer spirit
February 17 — making Zoom more user-friendly, being a migrant in a new country, which languages are mutually-intelligible, how schools create positive expectations
February 27 — Belorrusian election and protests, Belorussian reaction to Ukraine, 2011 Arab Spring, the honeymoon phase ends after a few years in a new country

March 7 — Visa and Mastercard have cut off Russian customers, the price of flights have skyrocketed, Putin’s war is bigger than he expected, apostilles, notarized documents, Shengen visas, proof of savings

April 10 — working on visa applications, renovating an in-laws apartment, waitlists to have documents processed, Georgia is busy integrating refugees from Russia

June 12 — Poland has some old war planes that they might just let be stolen, 100K new people coming into Poland every week, 42 planes landing in Georgia everyday but it used to be six, everyone expects that things will back to normal eventually
June 26 — Dubai is super-developed but it’s too hot to breathe in the summer, life is more affordable in the North of Cyprus, the ups and downs of moving,

July 3 — What is Epam?, bring warm clothes to Toronto, mysterious job interviews
July 10 — walkability, suburbs, public transit, Ikea dining tables, Door Dash food delivery
July 17 — learning soft skills, STAR interview questions take a lot of time to rehearse
July 31 — What’s App v Telegram, TTC subway, oral drilling with be questions

August 9 — getting the lay of the land in Montreal, WES, post-graduate qualifications, will doctors be replaced by technology, Musk’s humanoid robots
August 10 — Ransomware, jobs in e-learning, growing demand for VPNs, blacklisting
August 14 — How hard is it to bridge a law or medical background into the German or Canadian system? What’s it like starting over in your 30s or 40s?
August 16 — SMART goals, “Be so good they can’t ignore” (book title)
August 18 — What is technical sales?, Akami, Imperva, Azure, VMWare, New Relic, Jagar
August 21 — free weights, get your ducks in a row, Domenican Republic average monthly income, paying out of pocket for health care
August 28 — shopping for a vehicle, spending time with relative is not a real vacation

September 4 — buying, leasing, driving, owning, licensing, insuring, renting vehicles
September 8 — data exploration, cost of living in Eastern Europe
September 11 — four women, self-introductions (work, family, current city of residence, daily life in a new country)
September 13 — getting smarter, how to read, the blank sheet method

October 13 — politically correct language, social media
October 20 — Understanding the Digital Advertising Ecosystem, Impact of Data Privacy
October 23 — Gabor Mate’s new book, End of Normal
October 27 — facebook’s eye tracking experiment

November 1 — Stolen focus, octopus, men in uniform charged with sexual harassment
November 3 — toxic positivity defined and explained, a time someone reacted well
November 6 — murmuration and social media mobs, silos / bubbles / ghettos / diaspora / expats
November 8 — murmuration and social media mobs cont’d
November 10 — CIGI article on TikTok
November 22 — TED talk on human senses
November 29 — US military language learning

December 1 — The Humanity of CyberSecurity talk in Saudi Arabia, recursion
December 13 — The Secret Life of Canada, Crash Course on Ukrainian Canadians
December 15 — Carole Cadwalladr, Facebook’s role in Brexit
December 22 — ChatGPT and AI stealing art from humans
December 27 — Switzerland is so well-designed
December 29 — Harry Potter in anime, Star Wars Akiro CHATgpt


January 3 — Legal marijuana in Canada This Hour has 22 Min
January 5 — “Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life”, the end of crypto, FTX, Quadriga, Bored Ape, Ansel Adams and Van Gogh in CHATGPT
January 10 — how to think in English, naming things in your environment
January 12 — manmade indoor oceans and custom-engineered waves
January 17 — charities vs non-profits, independent journalists, prejudice against newcomers, hard times make hard people
January 19 — Bill Gates and his predictions and priorities for 2023
January 24 — an app that can track taxes, citizens can choose which programs to support, analytics do help shape priorities for government, someone mentioned the Doomsday Clock and humanity just moved closer to midnight
January 26 — new participant, extended introductions, pros and cons of the city you’re living in, chat GPT isn’t going to replace humans just yet, all new tech goes through Gartner’s hype cycle, Home Depot gave private data to Meta in Canada (oops)

February 1 WED — how to get the most out of an informational interview, IT sector is restructuring, how useful are unpaid internships
February 2 THU — the bitch and whine hour, bloom where you’re planted, sanguine observations about being happy, citizenship vs naturalization, backlash in Canada because of rapid immigration, the stunning architecture of Canadian cities (hockey arenas, Tim Horton’s and Costco)
February 7 TUE — Keeping it real, We are humble geniuses, debrief on an online job interview, worst meeting you ever had, to get the job is 100x harder than actual job, The Doomsday Clock, Adobe bought Figma
February 9 THU — maternity leave in various countries, new parents have little downtime, canned ChatGPT responses, freedom of expression in various societies and online, Charlie Hebdo
February 14 TUE — toxic engineers who can be immature and feel superior, layoffs in tech due to cleaning house and replacing complacent employees, post-truth, post-reality and convergence, Canadians are less pretentious, cost of living crisis
February 16 THU — corporations invest in disinfo on facebook, getting clear feedback from managers, surviving vs thriving, how to look good at meetings / the social + political aspects of staying employed and BEING SEEN TO BE delivering value
February 21 TUE — interdependence, kettlebells, Tim Urban, Indra’s net
February 22 WED — probationary periods, people who aren’t delivering value are being laid off,
February 23 THU — info interviews, portfolio of tableau projects, business buns
February 28 TUE — living next to the Baltic Sea, Katherine Hayhoe’s TED Talk and talking about climate change, 1000s of new developers coming out of colleges and boot camps

March 2 THU — Federal Skilled Worker, secrets of learning a new language, ploygots are people who want to learn, CLBs, Express Entry
March 5 SUN — harm reduction, Gabor Mate, opoid crisis, fentanyl
March 7 TUE — urban density, missing middle, walkable cities, science communicators
March 8 WED — Kazakhstan, visa runs, two types of tech workers: innovators and executors
March 9 THU — Earth temperature is rising, permafrost is melting, we should pay attention, mRNA in labs, knitting and sewing, Earthquake in Turkey and buildings that collapse vs buildings that survive
March 14 TUE — it’s always great when HR is surprised by your questions, pros and cons of 4 yr degrees, older works and current labour market, how newcomers can stave off major career sacrifices
March 16 THU — POCs, an interview debrief, the gutting of so many IT companies is depressing and worrying, cybersecurity is in demand – agree or disagree, cybersecurity is a good career – agree or disagree, the Kruger effect = smart people are humble because they grasp how much they don’t know, Hacking Google youtube videos about 2009
March 19 SUN — wild animals, pets, What is Beauty, influencers, pros and cons of lending your stuff, borrowing from others
March 21 TUE — I was voluntold, Boomers and investors own all the houses, Structube vs Ikea for condo home furnishings
March 22 WED — Spanish speakers in Russia, 2008 World Cup in Russia, White NIght in Russia, subway interiors are amazing, Basil the cat
March 23 THU — web development mentors, certifications, you should said array, debrief on an IELTS attempt after a long break, it is a 19 hour road trip from Toronto > Parry Sound > Sudbury > Sault Ste Marie > Wawa > Dryden
March 26 SUN — Don’t allow stress to kill your personality. Keep knocking doors. Do what you know. She went to university to get her MRS.
March 28 TUE — burn out, spiralling, trauma, keeping your career on track no matter what, jumping from the pot into the fire
March 29 WED — review of a Job Fair in Ottawa, life in Bistek, filters on ChatGPT, AI as human guardians, older workers being laid off to make way for younger grads
March 30 THU — on the hot seat, delivering your elevator speech, taking turns being the moderator, living without papers, road trips, travelling with pets, being between jobs, holding out for the perfect job vs taking an adequate job, zoochie zelena = part-time continuing education, video games as a downtime activity, surviving and thriving

April 2 SUN — Nice to meet you, life in Montreal, sharing tips about immigration, the value of learning some French for the Canadian labour market
Apr 4 TUE —
Apr 5 WED —
Apr 6 THU —
Apr 7 FRI —

Email me to learn more, or sign up for your 30 min meet and greet Skype session

As of April 2, 2023, there are 3 ~ 6 opportunities to join in: TUE 12pm, WED 10am, THU 12pm, FRI 8pm, SUN 12pm and 8pm.
Find the Salons in your time zone: https://www.worldtimebuddy.com/

Google sheet here: https://tinyurl.com/3whfukyp