the language club with a social mission
London is can be a tough place to live; it’s so big that even native Londoners can find themselves lost in a sea of strangers on a daily basis, and the cost of living is so much higher than in other parts of the UK, and the world. However, what if it were possible to make new friends and socialise for no more than the price of a cup of coffee?
As a matter of fact, it is! Speak Street, launched by Joanna Bevan in October 2014, is a free pop-up language tandem experience, and welcomes all Londoners.
How it works
Speak Street is a sort of language club. It’s completely volunteer – led so there’s no fee to attend; all that’s expected is that attendees buy a cup of coffee or two at the venue, which tends to be a café. Being a pop-up, Speak Street takes place in a number of venues and isn’t limited to one London borough. Attendees just need to keep an eye on the website to find out where the next session is happening, which could be a short bus or tube ride away!
Free English language sessions are offered for non-natives looking to improve their level, and for the native Brits, informal French and Spanish classes (they are £5 a session) are delivered by native teachers.
The content of the sessions is functional and relevant. For example, a typical English session may include speaking with landlords and employers, and learning the right vocabulary and grammar structures that will be useful in everyday life.
It’s a simple idea with firm roots in ‘permaculture’ design. Speak Street’s founder, Joanna – herself quatri-lingual and a fellow of the School for Social Entrepreneurs – is a huge advocate for Permaculture and has grown her social enterprise using techniques rooted in it.
‘Permaculture is an agricultural method which builds stronger, more sustainable crops and ecosystems,’ she says, ‘and what’s more, without waste. Speak Street allows for the strengthening symbiotic relationships between local residents and their surrounding community. The language learning is just a vehicle for this; speakers benefit mutually from the tandem experience and café owners gain a friendly, local clientele who bring in some steady custom. Therefore, it thrives on the infrastructure which is already readily available in the local area, reducing waste.’
Moreover, Permaculture relies on a high level of ‘biodiversity’. In London, this isn’t a problem; attendees come from a range of ethnic, cultural and linguistic backgrounds. This includes Europeans, Latinos, South-Asians, Africans – as well as native Brits – which provides some fertile soil for building a strong community.
Ultimately, having fun together in a stimulating environment is a means to achieving greater community cohesion. Native French tutor Antonia Jenkins agrees. For her it boils down to ‘practising a language, while building a community’. She stressed that she sees participants of all ages; her sessions are fun and interactive for everyone, whilst guaranteeing gentle dose of ‘brain gym’.
Speak Street’s next event is the Winter Mixer at the Oak & Pastor on the 24th of November 2015! Check out Speak Street’s Facebook event for full details.
What: Speak Street Pop Up Language Cafe Winter Mixer Event
When: 24th of November 2015
Where: Oak & Pastor, 86 Junction Road, London, N19 5QZ
You may also want to check out the Free English lessons in London.