BlogHow to Make the Most of Your First Language Meetup

How to Make the Most of Your First Language Meetup

Written by E-QIP on April 18, 2019

Language meetups can be a great way to put the language you’ve been learning to practical use, but if you’ve never attended one before, the first meeting can be daunting. What if you don’t understand what anyone is saying? What if you don’t know how to respond? Socializing with strangers can be intimidating at the best of times; add the language barrier element, and you’ve got a recipe for a downright nerve-wracking experience.

But it doesn’t have to be. Language meetups (including E-QIP’s weekly English, French, Japanese and Spanish Tea Time gatherings) tend to be warm and welcoming environments, and the people you’ll find there will either be in the same boat as you (learners of all levels looking to chat and practice) or native speakers who are particularly interested in sharing what they know.

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Whether you’re still a bit apprehensive or raring to go, check out our tips for making the most of your first time.

Find out if there’s anything you need to bring

Language meetups are often free, although some expect participants to contribute food or donations (at E-QIP, for example, Tea Timers are asked to bring either a $3 donation or a snack to share with the group). In other cases, you’ll be expected to participate in an “exchange” of languages, chatting with learners of your native language(s) and getting to practice your own target language in return. Meetup information is often easy to find on the group’s website, Meetup page or Facebook group, so do your research before you leave the house to avoid any unnecessary embarrassment!

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Practice a few go-to phrases beforehand

While there’s no level requirement or any expectation of strong conversational skills for most language meetups, your first meeting will go a lot more smoothly if you master a few basic phrases of greeting before showing up. Knowing how to share your name, say where you’re from (and what your native/target languages are) and ask others simple questions about themselves will all help get the conversation flowing (even if that’s as far as you can take it at first).

Bring a small notebook

Meetups are for conversation, not note-taking, but that doesn’t mean you won’t want to jot down new vocabulary and expressions. Having a notebook on hand (or your phone, if a notebook feels too conspicuous) also allows you to reference notes you’ve taken before the gathering; words that are useful for talking about yourself, asking questions, etc. No one wants to chat with someone who’s got their face in a book, but taking along a “security blanket” can set your mind at ease, whether you use it or not.

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Bring a friend

If you know any friends who speak your target language (or any of the languages that will be used at the meetup), bring them along for moral support. The language meetup environment forces you to get out of your comfort zone and actually communicate in your target language (which may not always be the case when chatting with friends who understand your mother tongue), but there’s no harm in bringing those same friends along to make yourself feel a little more at ease.

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When in doubt, find a big group and just listen

Sure, the whole point of language meetups might be to practice speaking, but if you’re not quite there yet (or you’re just a little shy), you can also get a lot out of simply listening to others speak. Use that notebook (or phone) you brought along to take down any new vocab you might want to look up later. And if you want anyone to repeat something, just ask. In our experience, a simple “can you repeat that?” goes a much longer way than blank stares.

How do you like to prep for language meetups? Let us know in the comments. Happy chatting!

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