Language exchange meetup: how to meet new people in Berlin.
I came to the café late. I am still new to Berlin and I get lost once in a while, trying new ways and shortcuts.
I locked my bike outside, feeling happy that I managed to find a spot, which is not such an obvious thing in Berlin, as everyone here is riding a bike. I took a deep breath . . and entered. Thinking – how was it going to be?
The one I was attending was an English-German meeting. Located in one of central cafes. There were about 30 of us. Some really relaxed and familiar with the event already, some like me, completely new to this.
It took me only few minutes to realize that many of these people didn’t speak fluent English, so things were getting even more interesting that I expected.
I wondered how many of us were determined to practice their German, and how many came here only for social reasons. But nevertheless here I was – with my basic German I was trying to get to know people and the reasons why are they here, and why they were in Berlin in general – only to learn German?
We were all struggling, making gazillion mistakes, but hey – I managed to meet a few interesting people. An Italian guy who came here for work, but couldn’t find one. Although he still loved the city, and was still hoping to meet the love of his life. An Indian man who decided to totally change his career and from being a flight attendant he became a project manager in the IT department of one of the many Berlin start-ups. A young girl from Canada who was having the time of her life here sharing a flat with two Germans and one Greek, but the prospect of an expiring visa was starting to take away all the fun from her. Then there were these two crazy Spanish women who almost didn’t speak any English and were afraid of the approaching winter. With these two there was no English speaking. I have to admit –most of us were using English, but we were trying really hard to use German whenever possible.
We were lucky to have had a German guy amongst us. He was an easy going guy in his mid-forties, wearing a well-fitted suit, sipping a macchiato. The ones that were regulars to these meetings called him “the Teacher” and laughed that he was a life saver. He was indeed in some situations, when some of us were stuck with some sentence and frustration was starting to fill the room. I didn’t know why he decided to spend his evening in such an unusual way, but he was a great support.
After almost 2 hours of laughs, coffees, new stories and new German words it was time for me to go. I was out on the street again, taking a deep breath of fresh air, trying to figure out what these two hours gave me. Wondering if this was only a social experience or if I actually learned some German over there? It took me the next five minutes to decide that this Language Exchange was mainly a social experience, very nice and indeed needed, but with practicing a new language it didn’t have that much in common. You can not expect that such a session would teach you much German.
But it might give you something very important – some Confidence. Confidence in making mistakes in a way. This is something that all beginners struggle with – everyone is stressed about making loads of mistakes and very often this stops them from speaking at all.
At these meetings you might learn one thing – you can make lots of grammar mistakes and even can miss a word every once in a while – but you still would be Understood. And if you are lucky enough, you will even be provided with a correct word or sentence. This feeling – to be able to manage to say a few sentences in a language that you are trying to master. This feeling when people understand you and respond to you – Priceless. You simply need to try, and try again. It will finally get into your system.
Back on my bike, I was trying to focus on my way back home, trying not to get lost this time. But I left inspired and had the weird feeling that I was going to come back to this meeting another day. It was a nice and relaxed opportunity to make use of my knowledge that I had gained from my private German classes in Berlin.
What is your experience with such meetings? Any interesting ones which are worth attending? Share it with us here, and maybe we will meet one day at one of them.