... participate to a meeting of LEC
... read more about the values and principles of LEC
... volunteer at LEC
... post an event on a website of LEC
... start a new language group
... start a new club like LEC in my city
This page contains a lot of information for people who consider organizing language meetings, groups or new language clubs. We're putting this information online because our objective at LEC is not to compete with other language clubs or networks: what counts for us is that people have the opportunity to experience something like LEC wherever they live!
How to participate to a meeting of LEC
- Just check the posting of the meeting, note down the necessary information and go to the meeting! LEC meetings are free of charge and you don't have to register on the website to visit them.
Read more about the values and principles of LEC
- Moral conduct
- Organizers and participants recognize that LEC activities encourage intercultural communication and awareness. Tolerance and respect are therefore requested from all participants to LEC activities.
- Each language meeting is dedicated to one language only
- The participants, including the native speakers, are focused on the language of the meeting.
- Several conversation meetings are organized every week so that participants can exchange skills (for example your English on Tuesdays against my German on Wednesdays).
- If a language is popular, several conversation meetings can be organized. These meetings are organized on the same day so that other languages are spoken on other days. This makes the exchange dimension in «language exchange» meaningful.
- Language meetings are free of charge
- This allows as many people as possible to come.
- Meetings can remain free of charge because they are organized by volunteers.
- Read our full guidelines about LEC events on the page "Create an Event".
- Every language group in every city has an organizer or a team of organizers
- Organizers announce the meetings, welcome and inform newcomers, work to involve everyone... In particular an organizer is present at each meeting to avoid any newcomers finding an empty table.
- In return, organizers greatly expand their network, gain valuable experience (for their CV) and are part of a community of organizers of LEC who meet regularly.
- Organizers should have fun during their meetings so that they keep organizing them! This means that other participants - who can have fun too ;) - should also contribute to the life of the group.
- There are different possible formats for language activities:
- Conversation meetings (with or without a topic).
- Other language meetings such as literature discussion groups, game-playing groups...
- Tandem partnerships where 2 people exchange skills in the languages they know outside of the group gatherings of LEC (LEC is unaware of whatever tandems may be created).
How to volunteer at LEC
How to post an event on a website of LEC
- Read our guidelines and instructions about LEC events on the page "Create an Event".
How to start a new language group (in a city where a language club already exists)
Below, we describe how we recommend to anyone to start a new group (of "Bulgarian in Lille" for example) when a language club like LEC is already present in a city.
- Go the the existing language meetings and see how they work. Meet the organizers.
- Find a venue: a suitable place is usually a café, not too loud, big enough for a meeting and with reasonable prices. Don't hesitate to try different places.
- Advertise your first meeting on the existing website(s) or the club (check that you comply with the guidelines of the club and ask the existing organizers).
- Advertise on couchsurfing.org to attract nearby travelers. Couchsurfing is a good tool to meet people you don't know (Facebook is only good to keep in touch with people you already know). With Couchsurfing, sometimes people visit your city and you can offer to meet them for coffee, or even invite them directly to the club's meetings. As an illustration, it is often fun for someone from Spain or Italy for example (who may not speak Russian), to meet with a group of friendly Ukrainians who speak their own language instead.
- This task may include significant time spent (online or in person) explaining, giving information and answering questions of people who are interested by your group. People will quickly disregard generic emails so be personal in how you deal with every new participant or possible participant.
- Prepare your meeting: even if it is a meeting without a topic, preparing a topic or some activities can help you feel more confident and better able to handle any unexpected situation. Have a look at the "Helpsheet 2" document in the left column of http://www.languagecafe.eu/in/intro.html to get ideas about what to do during a language meeting. You can also talk with organizers of existing groups to get their advice.
- During the first meetings, participants get to know one another. A good subject of conversation is to discuss the meeting itself (best day, best place/venue, activities, topic or no topic, expectations of participants, etc.). As an organizer, you will find interesting to listen to other participants. You are also the one(s) to decide how the meeting will take place (because you do the work of organizing it!).
- Don't do it alone! If possible, try to have at least one other person to help you start the group because it can take quite a while for a group to take off.
- It may happen that nobody comes to the meeting. This can happen especially when starting a new group or club. The organizer of the meeting should always be present at every meeting to show that the club's meetings are reliable (it can be an organizer or a replacement). Groups have been known to fail or never to take off because the organizers were not present at just one or a few meetings (this gives a very bad image of the language club).
How to start a new club like LEC in my city
Starting a new language club is a very big but rewarding undertaking. The initiators get to start a movement which will connect people together, push them to help one another, and help them improve the languages they love or need to communicate across cultures and make better situations for themselves.
- Check the existing language activities in your city.
- Websites to check: www.couchsurfing.org, www.facebook.com, www.vkontakte.ru, www.babelcup.com, www.sharedtalk.com, www.conversationexchange.com, www.theworldcafe.com, www.lingua2.eu, www.mylanguageexchange.com, www.languagecafe.eu, http://www.polyglot-learn-language.com, etc. or any local club such as http://talkin.eu/, http://www.azfund.org and so on.
- Read more about language clubs, groups and meetings (on this website or read for example the document "Introducing the Language Cafe" in the left column of http://www.languagecafe.eu/in/intro.html. This is not exactly what LEC does but it can give useful ideas.
- Start meetings and groups. Check the recommendations of the previous section "How to start a new language group". Remember that some things which work in one city may not work in another: no one-size fits all! You have to experiment and find what works best in your city.
- The most important success factors of starting a club like LEC in a new city are in our experience:
- Being personal in how you explain, answer questions and invite people to the meetings of the new club. People will quickly disregard generic emails and messages sent anonymously and to large numbers of people. At the beginning, the founders of LEC in Kyiv spent a tremendous amount of effort greeting every new member individually. A lot of it will first take place online and then more and more in person as people come to your meetings through word of mouth.
- Holding meetings reliability: an organizer should always be present at every meeting to show that LEC’s meetings are reliable (it can be an organizer or a replacement). Again, groups have been known to fail or never to take off because the organizers were not present at just one or a few meetings.
- Organizing meetings in different languages to give the opportunity to motivated members to exchange language skills (.... I help you with German on Wednesdays and you help me with French on Saturdays). To start a full-fledged Language Exchange Club in your city, you should target meetings in 4 languages: the language of the country (to attract foreigners), probably English (to attract locals) and 2 more.
- Finding native speakers. This is important but not compulsory: meetings should be able to take place without native speakers if they are well organized. Some groups in Kyiv for example function without native speakers (people still practise and help each other). To attract native speakers, discuss it during your meetings and ask participants to bring their foreign friends or find native speakers through their networks. Advertise and contact native speakers on Couchsurfing.
- Finding motivated, active and effective group organizers. This is the most critical success factor to establish a new club permanently. This requires some time for participants to a new club to understand how the meetings work and then to take over the organization (in our experience, about 2 months).
- Choosing the right means to advertise (social networks which will work in your city, organizations such as students' organization, or universities where people might be interested, etc.) and the right venues to hold the meetings
- Keeping it informal: if it’s not fun, don’t do it!
- How long will it take to set up a new club? We have successfully started clubs of LEC in Barcelona, Valencia and Leipzig by sending a volunteer there, but it has taken three months each time. In the first month, we establish regular meeting in at least four languages. They have to be regular or we fail quickly. In the second month, we start looking for group leaders who will continue when our volunteer leaves. And in the third month, we try to get the groups organizers to meet each other and begin to behave like a unified club, sharing in particular the responsibility of the websites for the new club.
- It is a big commitment of time. We always advise volunteers to find partner(s) at the beginning because it's not easy to devote four nights a week to the club.
- What difficulties should you expect when starting a new club in your city? The difficulties will vary. In our experience in the past, the existence of other language clubs in a city has been sometimes a source of issues and sometimes a help to start LEC activities in that city. Get in touch with us so that we share our experiences.
Let us know if these guildelines were useful to you and how it goes in your city because we are always happy to make nice & useful contacts!
- We're slowly developing a growing international language network of cities who share a similar vision and want to promote language and organize more projects together.
- Our objective at LEC is not to compete with other language networks: what counts for us is that people have the opportunity to experience something like LEC wherever they live!
Last updated on 2012-03-27.
Put online by Rémi on 2012-03-25.