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The language café provides security and courage to speak Swedish

A computerscreen showing lots of faces. Beside the computer there is a cup of coffee.
This autumn's language cafés are taking place in Zoom due to the prevailing pandemic. Photo: Chris Montgomery, Unsplash
Published Aug 27, 2020

September will see the restart of KTH’s language café via Zoom.
“All participants help one another and the sense of unity is incredible – we have a great time together,” says Eva Lövstedt Panova, a former KTH language teacher who has worked as a coach at language meetings since the launch of the project.

Eva Lövstedt Panova in the garden.
Although retired from KTH, Eva Lövstedt Panova has continued to coach at the language café. She will be taking a break during the autumn but will return once the language meetings are back on the KTH Campus.

In the opinion of Eva Lövstedt Panova, oral language learning is largely a matter of personal meetings and she believes that words should be taught with the entire body.

“We meet and look one another in the eye. The use of body language becomes even more important when one hasn’t fully mastered the verbal language.”

Language cafés usually take place in the teachers’ lounge next to the KTH Library, generally attracting between 10 and 15 participants. While Eva Lövstedt Panova is sad to see the pandemic put a stop to physical meetings, she points out that a digital language café is better than nothing. She believes that certain participants may find new opportunities in digital language training.

Over the years, Eva Lövstedt Panova has encountered many KTH employees who have found a greater sense of security and the courage to speak Swedish through these language meetings.

“Participants gain confidence in using the language so that they can take a more active role in discussions during coffee breaks,” she affirms, noting that: “One must be fairly brave and have the courage to make mistakes. The language café provides security.”

The language café broadens the image of Sweden

Saeed Hossein-Nia
Saeed Hossein-Nia works at the School of Engineering Sciences’ as researcher and teacher, he also supervises master’s and doctoral students.

Saeed Hossein-Nia, a researcher at KTH’s School of Engineering Science, has lived in Sweden for 11 years and is a regular attendee at language cafés.

“It has been a challenging and long process to learn Swedish and a certain amount of time was required for the language to sink in.”

The language café provided a complement to the more theoretical courses in Swedish that Saeed attended as a postdoc at KTH. In his opinion, the language café should be an integrated, compulsory element of these courses.

“Learning a language is like learning music; one must master both the theoretical and practical sides. Actually, at the language café you practice the language much as you would your musical instrument,” says Saeed Hossein-Nia.

He believes that as a researcher, regardless of where you in the world, you live somewhat in the “bubble” of your own field of research.

In the department where Saeed works, for the most part staff speak English.

“You need to actively seek out contexts in which to practice Swedish and discuss a wide variety of topics. There is no better place to do so than the language café,” says Saeed Hossein-Nia, who continues:

“At language meetings we discuss topical issues related to Swedish society and culture and meet new KTH staff members, something that gets you out of that ‘bubble’ for a while.”

Saeed Hossein-Nia sees no problem with the autumn’s language café taking place via Zoom.

“The technology itself is no obstacle to dialogue. You also have dictionaries and translation tools close at hand to assist while sitting at the computer. The Zoom café worked smoothly during the spring.”

Words: Marianne Norén

Language cafés this autumn

During the coronavirus pandemic, KTH Language and Communication is offering two digital language cafés per week at KTH during lunch breaks, from 12:00-13:00.

On Tuesdays, there will be an advanced-level language café and on Thursdays an intermediate level. Time permitting, participants will prepare a topic for each language café based on an article or television programme. Language cafés are led by teachers of Swedish as a foreign language.

Information regarding the Tuesday café and a Zoom link are available on the group website

Information regarding the Thursday café and a Zoom link are available on the group website

All staff members who would like to practice conversational Swedish and meet colleagues from different parts of KTH are welcome to attend.

We will not be offering a language café in Kista during the autumn but those who would otherwise attend there are welcome to log in to either of the other cafés.