The art of learning a new language in a fun environment

On Tuesday the 16th of October 18:00, students at Samfunnet arranged a very unique yet practical and fun way to learn a new language. Only two international students showed up at the event, a German student and me from Pakistan. The rest of the group were Norwegians and we had a total of 12 students.

The evening started out in a very friendly and cozy environment. The setup was wonderfully arranged by the UKA volunteers working there that day and I honestly had no idea what or how the event works out.

It turns out it was a fun social activity planned for Norwegian and International students where they could just hang out, have some nice bit of fun while doing something productive at the same time. Not very often do you have a chance to learn and be productive during a party.

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I have never had an experience of learning a new language while being invited to a fun party. Normally if you are to learn a new language, you either sign up for class or perhaps buy a book for most common phrases for the language which you’re interested in learning. However, this was something totally different.

So, before the activity started, first, each individual selected the language which they can communicate in perfectly. Then you had a choice in which language you were interested to learn and pick a flag and pin it on your shirt. Everyone picked several flags of different languages which we were all interested in and then we all sat on the table to start off the activity.

So, the 12 of us sat around a table each with a partner sitting across the table from each other and we started off the conversation in English. To simplify things, the group had prepared a list of questions on which each group would talk about for a minute to get things started.

So, the first question was “What is your name and what color is your toothbrush?” After talking about this with your partner for a minute, the first person at the far-right corner of the table switched their position and move to another partner so they could begin a conversation on the next question with someone new.

The second question was “Where are you from, which languages do you speak and which languages are you interested in practicing?” Everyone spoke to their partners on this for a minute and then we repeated the process up until all the questions were answered. Each questioned was timed and all the group members spoke to their respected partners for a minute. A very cool and innovative activity in my opinion which gave an opportunity to meet so many new people and talk to all of them comfortably at the same time. Practically speaking, how often does this happen? Rarely you go to a party or a social event and get a chance to speak to everyone, but this tandem language was designed in a way in which everyone got a chance to speak to everyone without making anyone uncomfortable.

I have never had an experience of learning a new language while being invited to a fun party. Normally if you are to learn a new language, you either sign up for class or perhaps buy a book for most common phrases for the language which you’re interested in learning. However, this was something totally different.

So, before the activity started, first, each individual selected the language which they can communicate in perfectly. Then you had a choice in which language you were interested to learn and pick a flag and pin it on your shirt. Everyone picked several flags of different languages which we were all interested in and then we all sat on the table to start off the activity.

So, the 12 of us sat around a table each with a partner sitting across the table from each other and we started off the conversation in English. To simplify things, the group had prepared a list of questions on which each group would talk about for a minute to get things started.

So, the first question was “What is your name and what color is your toothbrush?” After talking about this with your partner for a minute, the first person at the far-right corner of the table switched their position and move to another partner so they could begin a conversation on the next question with someone new.

The second question was “Where are you from, which languages do you speak and which languages are you interested in practicing?” Everyone spoke to their partners on this for a minute and then we repeated the process up until all the questions were answered. Each questioned was timed and all the group members spoke to their respected partners for a minute. A very cool and innovative activity in my opinion which gave an opportunity to meet so many new people and talk to all of them comfortably at the same time. Practically speaking, how often does this happen? Rarely you go to a party or a social event and get a chance to speak to everyone, but this tandem language was designed in a way in which everyone got a chance to speak to everyone without making anyone uncomfortable.

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Once the groups finished all of their questions, then we moved onto the second phase of our session, which was to pick a language you which you wanted to practice. I chose Spanish and Norwegian. Unfortunately, we didn’t really have a person who was a native Spanish speaker, but we still ended up having loads of fun having to try and have a conversation in a language we know so little of. The mood was so free and relaxed and, in my opinion, this is an extremely effective way to make new friends, have a conversation and practice learning a new language at the same time.

Normally you go to a class and all the students sit there in the class listening to a teacher speak for a couple of hours and it gets boring and tiresome. But here we were all having a very nice team talking to each other, just chilling, socializing and learning at the same time. I taught a few sentences in Urdu and in return I learnt a few phrases in Norwegian.

For example, “Kvittering”, which means receipt, when they told me this word I had absolutely no idea what it meant, but every time you go to a grocery store, the person on the counter asks you “Kvittering”. So those of us who don’t speak Norwegian, just nod our head and pay our bill. When I shared my surprise with group and finally understood why the person at the counter keeps saying this, they all had a laugh.

Now I’ve come to think of it, this activity kind of reminds of an old British “Mind your language” where a group of eccentric foreign students come to England to learn English as a foreign language. Because we just had so much fun and it really is a more effective way of practicing a new language and making friends at the same time. I would sincerely hope that this kind of activity in the future attracts more student because everyone had a lot of fun and it is definitely a more exciting way to learn a new language instead of sitting a 2-hour class and getting bored where no one really gets a chance to speak to each other. I urge all the students to visit such kind of events which not only gives you a chance to mingle and meet new people, but it is productive at the same time as well. Really looking forward to another tandem language event in the future, as I sure had a lot of fun.