I have decided to launch a new fun section in this blog: The Linguist’s Diaries. The concept is simple: I would like to share with you my life as a linguist. As some of you may know, I have very different streams of income on a regular basis, and my biggest one is not my company but my work for the creation of a European University. In this context, I work in several fields but especially in the realm of linguistics, most specifically linguistic awareness (basically, making sure all the languages and cultures represented are treated equally). I am also looking forward to doing a Ph.D. in the years to come, and have finished my first 350+ pages long master’s thesis about early bilingualism.
I know this introduction is not about linguistic parties, but I thought it would be good to explain first what I do in the vast realm of linguistics. Moreover, I feel like it is a job so few people know that it can only be beneficial to raise awareness toward it. As far as linguistic parties are concerned, I think they are a beautiful way to start a linguistics journey, even if you are not a professional linguist. Ready?
My French workbook to learn a language:
What is a linguistic party?
The concept could not be simpler: you are allowed to do whatever you like, as those parties do not properly “exist” (or at least they are not defined). For the sake of today’s post and inspiration purposes, I will share with you the way we (because we are a whole team, it is much funnier!) organize such linguistic parties.
Know that I live in a rather small town (60 000+ inhabitants) and that we are able to organize these on a regular basis, so I am sure you can do it as well. In our case, we are a team of around 20 people member of a non-profit (see below) and we organize one party a week in a specific language. We do: English, Spanish, Italian, Polish and German (knowing we are living in France). When a new person wants to start parties in a language not represented yet, they are fully allowed to do it. Our purpose is to celebrate multilingualism and thus, when there are not a lot of people interested in a specific language, we couple the said language with a more “popular” one (e.g. German + Polish). Thus, parties are big enough even for the few people coming to practice Polish to enjoy a bigger meet up.
A thing really dear to our heart, which goes hand in hand with promoting multilingualism, is being inclusive. Thus, even though the members of the non-profit pay a fee (aka the organizers), people coming to our parties are there for free. We always negotiate special discounts with the bar we go to (as we always organize parties in a different bar so that we can also bring clients to several places in our city and help the economy, at our scale) so that everyone can come. If someone does not have money to spend at all, they can simply order water and that is all fine. Money should not be a problem when it comes to practising a language.
I just wrote that inclusivity was important to our non-profit. It is indeed not only a matter of money, but also a matter of feeling. We absolutely welcome everyone, from native speakers to students, but also people kind of interested in the spoken language but unsure about their level. The idea is not only to improve one’s linguistic skills (even though science proves that depending on your starting level, you will learn more in such an informal environment than in school) but develop people’s interest in languages and cultures. Thus, among other things, an English Night (the parties I do co-organize and which are meant to discover/learn English) may allow for:
- Native speakers to meet other English-speakers
- Students to practice their communication skills
- People to find multilingual jobs and internships (those parties often come to attract for these purposes)
- People to discover a new language
- Everyone to feel at ease in a multilingual environment.
For people who feel maybe too shy to try coming to a linguistic party, we also organize “multilingual parties” on a regular basis. The concept there is that everyone can speak whatever language they want (including their mother language). These events are great for multilingualism and also to attract more people to specific linguistic evenings later on.
Organizing a linguistic party
The non-profit solution: our story
Now, it feels like time to give you a few pieces of advice for your own linguistic parties. I am by no means an expert, and I do not own the non-profit. I am simply an event planner for the English Nights, and this comes from my event planner’s perspective.
When you start out, maybe you will want to do what we did and go head first into organizing a first party. I personally think it is great, as you can’t really know from the beginning who is going to be interested inside your city. However, when you see that things are going great, and you are welcoming new people (and maybe adding new languages), you might think about creating a proper non-profit. First, you will seem more professional to bar owners (and you need them in order to have a place to organize the parties) and second, you will have an easier financial situation. With time, you might indeed need to invest in stuff such as microphones or communication items and for it, the non-profit is THE solution.
Finding a place for your concept
You also need to find the place that is perfect for your vision of events. We do use bars (I also use a bar for my monthly book club) but it is really up to you. As we start parties about 7:30 pm, we choose bars because these are convenient. Moreover, people tend to feel more at ease going to a linguistic party if it is set in a public space (as they feel like they could easily run away ;)). However, a private place may also be an option, or even a café in the afternoon if this is more your thing. There is no “right” or “wrong” and I am sure you will find the place that is perfect for your own parties.
You absolutely need what we call icebreakers if you want to organize a successful linguistic party. Many people are indeed feeling quite shy in the beginning of parties, and it gets much worse if the party is in a foreign language. Thus, it is important that you offer something else than “let’s speak X language”. For instance, at English Nights, we love organizing:
- Pub Crawls
- Karaoke Nights
- “Who is who”: the concept is that everyone writes a fun fact about them on a sheet of paper. Then, papers are handed out to other people and everyone needs to find the author of the fun fact. This helps in initiating conversations.
- Pub quizzes (be careful with this one, as a quiz might be overwhelming for someone who does not master the language of the party).
Think about the image you want for your events
Last but not least, you absolutely need to think about the image you want to create for your parties. As I told you, we are into inclusivity and multilingualism and thus, we organize parties around these axes through free events and icebreakers. Nonetheless, it is your role to find your number 1 goal: maybe it will be inclusivity or maybe not, this is up to you.
I personally think that one important thing is to find the “right name”. For instance, we do “English Nights” and not “Linguistic Parties”. This is the generic name I used in today’s post, but please do not use it yourself: it feels sooooo school-related, right? 😉
I hope you enjoyed today’s post and maybe even got inspired to launch your very own parties. If you do, please tell me how it went and if you have questions, feel free to ask in the section below!