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Society Stories: Chatting with the Language Cafe

Read all about the 2022 Society of the Year, The Language Cafe!

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We caught up with the 2022 Society of the Year winner, The Language Cafe, to find out everything you need to know about their plans for the year. We spoke to Ina Matuszyk, Society President, to learn everything about how to get involved, why you should get involved and exciting information about their new language classes! 

What is the Language Cafe?

Well it's kind of the old society in a sense. I think we're gonna have a 15th birthday like next year or something. Don't quote me on this but we are definitely over 10 years old. And since I joined, it's really grown from being just a place where people can kind of hang out as friends, but with passion for languages, to a full scale society that teaches languages, offers practice rooms and language resources. 

So we operate on a weekly basis and our meetings are regular and we have a huge community because every single person is responsible for another thing during the meeting. For example, we have room managers that manage their separate rooms. Currently we meet every Tuesday, it's 5 to 8 p.m, in Livingston Tower.

Does it matter how much you know a language?

We offer a lot of different things for a lot of students who are on different journeys. We have things for beginners such as the classes that are going to be launching this year.  We have language services for self-studying. We also have separate rooms for more advanced speakers so that they can kind of embarrass themselves in a language with their own world with, you know, quietness and a source of privacy.

We also do more themed events, for example, last year we did a collaboration with IBML, which is International Business with Modern Languages, and we collaborated to have Halloween together. So we are very much open to having bigger language exchange events as well. So as I said, we cater to most of the needs of our students and students of Strathclyde in general. 

Your language classes are a new thing this year, what can you say about them?

They’re something we were thinking about for a long time as a society because we always had this issue with people coming in but not speaking a language and then interacting with people who actually want to speak it and forcing the more advanced speakers to switch back to English. 

And we actually received a lot of feedback on this and we thought, okay, well why don't we, instead of banning the beginners, why don't we just give them the opportunity to learn and we have thought a lot about how to make it so that the maximum number of Strath students can benefit. So we actually came up with an idea to hire current students who study modern languages because they do need that sort of experience, especially if for example, because of Covid that they couldn't go on a year out.

So we decided, why not? We can create a learning experience for our members, but also teaching experience for other students. We have received the funds for it, so that our classes are mostly free. They're gonna have to be £1 per lesson, but if somebody's struggling with that, we can even help with this. But instead of paying like 20 quid per class, you spend £1 and you get a full-scale class!

What’s the best way to get involved with your society?

You don’t need anything, an interest in languages is helpful but they don’t need anything. They just need to, as our committee says, ‘Drag their asses in’ to a meeting.

The meetings are relaxed, so we have like a series of rooms on the same floor, so people can not come at five, when other things start. But for example, at six, when they finish work or classes, they would go straight to the language room that speaks what they want to speak. So we offer a lot of flexibility in our meetings.

What would you say is the most rewarding part of being part of the society? 

I have met people and we're talking about shy people who come just to learn the language and they mostly come here to make friends but then I see them grow.

Last year when we introduced the language rooms, that was the first year we actually requested to have more rooms so instead of having separate tables for languages we had rooms for them. Now we have, you know, half of the floor and the people who stay in the main room, I was actually very afraid, they're just not gonna, you know, have anything to talk about at? But I have learnt from people in the main room that they have decided to, they were just talking in English, right? They weren't actually learning a language and then just one day they decided to take a British sign language. 

They did that without any sort of initiative from our community. It was just the fact that they were put in the learning environment where everybody's talking about learning. And even those people who at the beginning were uninterested in that, they started to join in. To me, that's like the most rewarding experience. 

Join the Language Cafe every Tuesday at 5pm in Livingston Tower Room 412. You can speak any language as a beginner or fluently but there’s extra support in French, Spanish, Italian and German with £1 classes!

The Language Cafe are still looking to hire a Spanish Manager! It’s 1 hour a week and perfect for anyone looking for experience in management, teaching or language and they will provide full training.  Apply here if you're interested in the role


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