Monday, December 5, 2016

Integration through language acquisition is key.

During our short trip to CH & DE in November, my husband and I were fortunate to have spent time with dear friends, A. & N., who are currently engaged in helping Syrian refugees integrate into German society. They are a married couple, he is German by way of Syria & she is Swabian.

N. does translation work (some gratis and some paid) at court, with social services, and for the occasional doctor visit. A. helps run a city-sponsored, weekly Sprach Café (language group) at a local community center. She bakes cakes and other treats to go along with the coffee normally served. Both A. & N. assist in finding accommodation for the newly arrived, and, in some cases, employment. To hear my friends talk about it, they find the work not only rewarding but vital.

The concept of a Sprach Café intrigued me & I wondered if there were anything like that happening in areas of the US where newly-arrived refugees are living. Off the top of my head, I don't think we've any 'language cafes' running here in the Bay Area, or, if there are, I'm not privy to them. (More to the point, do we even have any Syrians asylum seekers in this part of the country?) Tying language learning with social engagement only makes sense. One has to get a sense of language used in context in order to successfully progress in language acquisition. The whole thing just seems like a great way to improve language skills while, hopefully, expanding one's social circle.

After visiting with A. & N., we spent some time in Basel, our favorite Swiss city. I found this wee flyer on the counter by the espresso machine at one of our old haunts, Frühling, in Kleinbasel.

It reads:

Do you want to improve your German, meet other people & get to know other cultures? If so, then come to our language cafe. We're looking forward to having you!

Every other Friday at Café Frühling...

It's good to know folk in Basel are also getting in on language support for those in need. The difference between what A. is involved with and what's happening at Frühling is that the Swiss effort is privately sponsored. I know this because I asked the gal making my espresso drinks ALL about the flyer. She explained that the Sprach Café is organized by two women who foot the bill for filter coffee for the 20 person+ group. -such a great idea. Honestly, I could have benefitted from one such group during my time in Zurich. There were a few language meet-ups around, but they were held at fairly busy pubs, and, often, it was just plain hard to hear what was being said. For a language practice group, a raucous bar environment just isn't ideal. I get that some of us language learners like a bit of 'liquid courage' when practicing a foreign tongue, but if you can't hear what's being said, then it all just amounts to a night out drinking.

Here's to those new arrivals finding their footing in German & Swiss German society. May their language acquisition be as enjoyable as possible! Viel Spass und viel Erfolg!


  1. What a brilliant idea.
    I am pretty certain that we don't have anything like it. And should.

  2. Seems like the world can all speak or at least understand English. I can only speak a few words of another language and so wish I could learn different ones. We need to learn more at earlier ages, though I guess now they are learning mandarin.

    1. Spanish would be particularly helpful (and Cantonese) where I live. It's never too late to learn, I suppose.

  3. Hi Bea, thanks for visiting my blog. I am glad you did because I find yours interesting, even though I’ve only read a bit of it. English is not my first language, although I speak and write it reasonably well, it took many years, after studying the language, to allow complete ease of using it. I am not sure that the refugees in Germany, and elsewhere, will manage that in a short time, certainly not the first generation. A Sprach Cafe is therefore an excellent idea.

    I am joining your followers, I want to read more of your posts.

    1. Grüsse Friko! Thank you for both commenting & following. I hope to provide the occasional thought-provoking post, although I fear I tend to slip into 'rant mode' quite often.

      Indeed language learning is a life-long pursuit. Your English is superlative, if I may say so. Would that my German were as good!


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