As a French and Theatre student, I always intended on attending the Global Lounge’s weekly Language Café sessions during my first year of University. I’m now in my second year, and while it still takes place every Wednesday afternoon, the venue is pretty different! Instead of meeting at a physical space, we move freely between virtual tables on a platform called Remo, communicating through cameras and microphones.
‘You can leave the session feeling like you’ve achieved something (even if this just means talking to people outside of your house!)‘
Despite this change, the experience is as rewarding as I hoped it would be. Before I’d ever even attended Language Café, I jumped at the chance to be a volunteer — and I haven’t looked back since. I would recommend this role to anyone who wants to improve in a language and facilitate others’ learning, because it is exactly this symbiosis that makes it such a rich and unique experience. I really appreciate the friendly and relaxed environment that everyone helps create. Whether you’re a volunteer or an attendee, it’s a space where you can make mistakes and still leave the session feeling like you’ve achieved something (even if this just means talking to people outside of your house!).
‘It is an exciting opportunity for anyone at the University to meet new people and assist others’
I’m sure most people would prefer in-person interaction, but I believe that the Language Café team have made a great effort to simulate the original café experience and are always present to help with any difficulties we might experience. With a large variety of languages to engage in — including (but not limited to) French, Japanese, Cantonese, Hindi, Spanish, British Sign Language, and English — it is an exciting opportunity for anyone at the University to meet new people and assist others in their language-learning journey. I also appreciate that these events actively encourage the sharing of cultures, revealing the University of Bristol to be the multicultural community that it is.
‘It is these moments of natural chit-chat and straying from the topic that has made this experience so memorable for me so far’
As a non-native French speaker, leading French discussions at intermediate level has certainly been a challenge, but I am grateful for it. It makes a huge difference to the confidence I have in my French seminars and encourages me to explore topics I otherwise might not have – which is always a welcome experience (my animal kingdom vocab was very much tested in a recent session!).
Each week is different; the number of people varies (both small and large numbers having their advantages), the pre-prepared topics change from week to week and meandering from the theme is encouraged, and likely! In fact, it is these moments of natural chit-chat and straying from the topic that has made this experience so memorable for me so far. On top of this, being a Language Café volunteer makes me feel well-prepared for my year abroad next year as I intend on studying and working in Toulouse; so I will be speaking French as my primary language every day. Maybe by then I will have been to an in-person event — fingers crossed!
So, whether you think this is for you or not, I challenge you to come to at least one session this semester and see for yourself. Hope to see you there!
Language Café runs every Wednesday, 3 pm to 4:30 pm (3 February to 24 March 2021) on Remo. Go to the listing page to find the next upcoming event and Remo link!