Starting new conversations

December 14, 2012 | 11 a.m.

Two foreign language programs take learning to the corridors and cafes around campus

News | Cherie Suonvieri for The Clarion

Starting new conversations

Spoken language is often best learned through conversation.

In an effort to encourage foreign language conversation outside of the classroom, Bethel’s Department of Modern World Language has established weekly conversations. Both students and faculty members are welcome at these events. Currently, there are two language groups: Spanish and German.

Cafecito, the Spanish conversation group, is led by junior Laura Moeller and two other TAs. “It’s a really cool opportunity to come and practice,” Moeller said.

Level of conversation is based on the student's background. “We tend to feel out where students are at when they come in and try [to work with that],” Moeller said.

Having a conversation may give students an advantage on a practical level because they can receive help with concepts they struggle with in class, but Moeller said that using the language itself is the biggest benefit. “All language teachers would say that, right off the bat, immersion is the best way to acquire a language,” she said.

Cafecito meets on Thursdays at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. in the Modern World Language office in Townhouse M.

The German conversation group on campus runs in a similar format. “It’s German only, and we have people of all kinds of levels who come to it,” said Michel van der Hoek, adjunct professor in the German Department.

The conversations provide students with an opportunity to speak German outside of the classroom, which often proves to be difficult around town. “It’s not as easy as it is for a Spanish program where you can go to some ministry in the cities and all speak Spanish for a few hours,” van der Hoek said. “We don’t have that for German.”

German students are required to attend several of the conversations as a communicative component of the curriculum. “It’s meant for real, spontaneous communication – helping them to practice,” van der Hoek said. “It’s input and opportunity to create output, maximizing their contact hours with the language.”

German conversations take place at Royal Grounds every Wednesday morning from 11:15 a.m. to 12 p.m.  Both groups are hoping to see the attendance of their conversations grow, and they extend the invitation to all speakers – from those who are just beginning to those who are fluent.

There are plans to begin a French conversation group next semester.


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