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It’s Saturday morning and I’m strolling down Queen Street looking at its red-bricked buildings. Here, behind the tall, multicoloured windows of Festival Church, there’s a cosy coffee shop, where every two weeks a group of different nationalities gather to practise different languages whilst drinking tea and rose flavoured hot chocolate. Welcome to Festival Language Café!

A few months ago, Sarah Steward, manager at Festival Coffee, following her passion for language started this language exchange group, Festival Language Café, “a great, informal way to practise your second language and possibly help someone else learn yours,” as Sarah describes it.

A Language Café

Chester is increasingly becoming a melting pot of nationalities from all around the world. The opportunity to learn a foreign language without needing to travel to a foreign country has also become a reality and Sarah’s Language Café is not only a way to keep your second language up to scratch but also to meet new, interesting people from all over.

As a language nerd myself, I often enjoy going to practise my French and Spanish and also help others learn my native tongue, Italian. The pressure of making fluent conversation can magically vanish when you’re around friendly people who are simply chatting over a cup of coffee, helping each other.

Although there are regular conversations in French, Spanish, Italian and English, speakers of any language are encouraged to come – the aim of the gathering is to provide a variety of languages to practice.

The Language Café takes place every other Saturday, from 11am to 12pm, at Festival Coffee on Queen Street, just opposite the back entrance of Tesco and Boots. You can find information about their meetings and dates on Festival Coffee’s Facebook page where regular events are posted.

A Spanish gathering

However, if you’re looking to narrow down your language choice and would like to practice a specific language only, Chester has no shortage of friendly places where you can do so.

Natalia Jancewicz, a native Spanish speaker, leads a lively Spanish speaking group called  Learning Spanish with Natalia. As Natalia has learned English as a second language, she’s well aware of the challenges of learning a new language, including the lack of confidence that comes when you first start speaking it. “I can think of all the times I have felt a lack of confidence and frustration while trying to communicate in English. I still do on many occasions, after five years of learning and three years of immersion here.” This is why Natalia decided to give Spanish learners in Chester the opportunity to practice this language within a friendly environment.

The days and times of Learning Spanish with Natalia are changeable and are shared on MeetUp, in the group Learning Spanish in Chester and on the Facebook page

An Italian Thursday

In addition to Spanish, Italian is another European language that can be easily practiced in Chester. Every third Thursday of the month from 6pm to 7pm in Storyhouse, a group of Italian enthusiasts meet up to talk about travel, art and fun cultural curiosities in Italian.

Italian Thursday was born as a well-needed alternative for my Italian learners in Chester to have a place to practise outside our language workshops and classes. Born as a simple bonus conversation class for those who were taking the language course “Italian for Travellers”, Italian Thursday is now a free monthly conversation group that is open to anyone who has already a basic knowledge of Italian and is willing to develop their Italian speaking skills in a relaxed and fun environment, where they can experiment without worrying too much about getting their grammar 100% right!

We have Italian conversation around a different leading theme each time. Find out what the next conversation theme is and get more info here.

 A German experience

Finally, for all German fans, Margaret Clewett leads a German speaking group, Chester Deutschsprachige, that meets every Saturday at 11 am. If you’re someone who already has a good grasp of German, this group provides you with the opportunity to keep it up and share opinions on books, films and whatever you’re interested in. The members of Chester Deutschsprachige meetup have also been organising trips to Germany, so if you’d like to go on a language trip with like-minded individuals, this is the group for you.

If you google Chester Deutschsprachige Meetup, you’ll be able to see the MeetUp page with dates and times of meetings.

What language would you like to speak?

If you’re lucky enough to live in Chester, you don’t have to travel far to find a place to speak your second language. All these gatherings provide you with the opportunity to speak the language you love and, at the same time, to connect those willing to share part of their world with you. All you need to do is to show up and be ready to speak up, without being afraid of making mistakes After all, the more mistakes you make, the more you learn.