Café Lingua is a 'language exchange café,' connecting language learners with native speakers, both online & in-person.
The main component of Café Lingua is the physical coffee shop that will provide a casual atmosphere for interacting with other customers. You might ask, what makes us different than practicing at a regular café? Café Lingua is different because we cater primarily to language learners with an environment that will facilitate interactions among our customers. We also have plans on empowering the language teaching community by giving them opportunities to teach inside our café's dedicated classroom space. The language exchange is free, but the food & beverage sales help keep our doors open.
Language Exchange Meetup
However, there is much work to do with securing a location and getting the proper funding, which is why we launched our Café Lingua Meetup group last week. The Meetup group will begin hosting events in the Washington D.C. area to build up our community prior to the completing construction of our café. Along with that, we'll also host some live Google Hangouts sessions to include linguists from across the globe in our face-to-face interactions. Best of all this is all provided 100% free, as we will use sales of merchandise in our shop, food and beverage sales, and partnerships to keep language learning accessible, affordable, and authentic.
Online Language Exchange Communities
Yet, Café Lingua is only getting started. Our physical café only makes up a fraction of what we have in store for you all. We have released an invite-only beta for our Café Lingua Community, but we also have a public Facebook group for those that would rather interact on their everyday social media platform (however, with certain features missing, such as member corrections and categorization of topics).
Over time we have plans to further integrate both the in-person and online communities. We realize how vital the face-to-face interactions are and know that technology integration can help us better facilitate those interactions in the real world.
Why Café Lingua?
I'm a language learner myself. I picked up Japanese while serving an LDS mission, prior to leaving the Church*. I learned Spanish as a Spanish Immersion student, taking all my coursework in Spanish rather than English from 4 years old to 10 years old. And then I learned how to ask for the toilet in French while living in Belgium. But, not much more than that because my work environment was 100% English.
*To my Mormon friends, don't worry! We'll have non-coffee/tea beverages available for you as well in our inclusive community.
I used to attend groups on Meetup to practice Japanese or Spanish, but I found that I would constantly have to back out of events at the last moment because my schedule was far too filled. I always wished that there was some place for someone like me who doesn't have a traditional schedule, yet wishes they had conversation partners to practice with in person. That's when this idea began initially forming in my head some years ago.
Also, as a former ESL teacher who has taught in Japan, Belgium, the United Kingdom, and the United States, I noticed that my students learned best from each other, and not necessarily from me. A class filled with 90% Spanish speaking students, might not learn much in the course of an entire year since they've never had to rely on English to make friends.
However, while living in Belgium I had the opportunity to teach elementary ESL on a NATO base there and saw students who could barely say "My name is..." on the first day speaking full sentences in English within months because if they wanted friends, they had to learn English quick. They learned more words on the playground than in my class because the language that is most relevant to them like 'slide,' 'bus,' and 'Fortnite.' They can comprehend the meaning and they will use the words or phrases regularly because those words are important to communicate their thoughts, whereas the words 'metaphor,' 'executive branch,' and 'standardized testing' were not words they would use regularly or give a crap about. So how are these kids learning it from each other without dictionaries, without teachers, and without language apps? Through language acquisition, rather than formal language learning.
Language Acquisition vs. Language Learning
To better understand for yourself, listen to Stephen Krashen as he explains the key to language acquisition, which is comprehensible input.
I knew there was a better way to learn than the methods I had been using. I've seen the work of visionaries in education like Sugata Mitra, who has shown the capabilities of even young children to learn amazingly complex topics without need for a teacher simply through social learning.
Accessible, Affordable, and Authentic Language Learning
That's when I realized, there has to be a better way to teach. And while there are numerous good administrators out there, there are plenty more who will micromanage teachers to the point where they have no flexibility to teach in more effective ways. Unfortunately most public schools are too committed to test taking and buzz words to allow teachers to do what they most want to do, TEACH. And teaching in the 21st century with access to the internet is a whole new ball game, since teaching needs to be more geared towards a facilitator role that simply helps increase the rate of learning, rather than be the sole source for learning.
That's why I formed Café Lingua as a way to make language learning more accessible, affordable, and authentic. Café Lingua is more engaging because it gives you a reason to learn. Imagine the next time you're visiting a country and instead of stopping at the tourist center, you stop at Café Lingua. You meet some new friends who show you around. Maybe you even decide to take a language course with one of the teachers at our café. And before you know it, you've fallen in love with this person, their culture, and their language.
Now that you're connected, you can continue to learn and form friendships with people in your new global community @ Café Lingua.