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SLEM - Special Language Exchange Meeting – How To Start One?
Posted January 6th, 2011 - 1:56 pm by from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Permalink)
Dear All,

Following are some tips and considerations that should be taken into account by those interested in organizing language exchange meetings. :-)

Many people are interested in studying languages, but not many meetings are being organized for this purpose. Send a post indicating your interest ("My name is XYZ, I speak Portuguese and am interested in learning German, etc.") is necessary, but not enough - to go from intention to action, a very important step is creating an event to formalize the meeting and, with due advance notice, publishing a post on the event created in the RIO LANGUAGE EXCHANGE MEETING subgroup. From there, those interested may join the event.

Meeting location and date?

As its name indicates, a "language exchange meeting" is, above all, a meeting - you need to suggest a location and time for people to meet, as in any other meeting (there are various ways to "language exchange", such as using Skype, etc., but here I refer to in-person meetings, which best represent the original proposal of this group as conceived by its creator, Laurent Juillard).

What languages will be studied?

So that the event can be created, you need to suggest which languages will be studied at the meeting - for example, French and Portuguese, or English and Spanish, etc. This way those interested in these languages can join the event.

How many participants?

As for the total number of participants, that depends on the location selected. Regardless, based on experiences from various past meetings, a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 12 is recommended (more than that and the meeting tends to become a party, with more socializing than studying, which is not bad, but it's not the point of *this* type of meeting...).

Considering a meeting for exchanging only two languages (*), you should look for a balanced number of native (or fluent) participants in the languages to be studied. For example, in a meeting to exchange Portuguese for French that has 9 people, 5 Brazilians and 4 French people should attend, or 4 Brazilians and 5 French people. However, if there are 7 Brazilians and 2 French people, the dynamic will not be ideal - the best would be to have the same number of native or fluent people for each language, or a number near it.

(*) You can organize meetings to study more than two languages at the same time, although this is a little more complicated. Aside from balancing the number of people interested in learning and teaching each language, you need to also consider that not everyone is at the same learning level (beginner, intermediate, advanced).

Which methodology is recommended?

As to the meeting program and format, this depends on the creativity of the person who publishes the post and organizes the meeting, as well as what is agreed upon between the participants. However, so as not to frustrate expectations, you should agree what will take place during the meeting in advance. You can organize a meeting for conversations only (practicing conversations), to study grammar in general or a specific topic (for example, what is the difference between verb conjugations in the subjunctive mode in Portuguese and in French?), to watch films with subtitles, to listen to music, practice reading, talk about cultural themes, sing (!!), cook (!!) recipes written in other languages, or a mix of all of these. As to the supporting materials, you can use grammar books, magazines, newspapers, dictionaries, websites, songs, or any other material or source of content that the participants want to use.

Is it confirmed or not? How do I get there?

Once the event is created and the minimum number of participants have confirmed (joined the event), it's best to send e-mails to those who confirmed their participation. This should be done by the person who created the event or by someone who wants to help organize it. If the meeting is at someone's house, the owner of the house should send the address, telephone numbers, and tips on how to get there (Google Maps, bus lines, metro, etc.) via private messsages. If the meeting is at a public location, such as a bar, it's good to make reservations in advance so that there is room for all. In any case, out of consideration for the meeting organizer and the other participants, it's important to respect the times agreed upon.

Feedback and Thanks

After the meeting, it's also a good practice for everyone who participated to send their feedback (what went right, what didn't, for the benefit of future meetings). It's also good to *thank* the organizer and the other participants, since after all everyone gave part of their time to learn and to teach.

Who is responsible for organizing these language exchange meetings?

Answer: You! :-)

I mean, no one in particular is *the person responsible for creating meetings for studying languages*. If everyone waits around for someone else to do it, there will be no meetings - everyone interested in this type of cultural exchange can and should create and organize these events. There is nothing to stop two or three people from helping to organize it, but it's important to keep in mind that SLEM is a meeting, there are better-defined objectives, but it needs a location, a time, and participants committed to its success. The idea is that everyone has fun and learns at the same time. :-)

Best to all,
Group Moderator