"Meetups" help spark foreign language conversations - Resources for your Spanish Classrom
By Carol Pucci
Special to The Seattle Times
Just about the time the Queen Anne bars and restaurants are filling up for Friday afternoon happy hour, eight of us are gathered around a table at Starbucks, sipping lattes and chatting in Italian.
Full disclosure: I’m speaking mostly in English as I gather bits of information about the Seattle Italian Connection, a “meetup” group that brings strangers together over coffee, wine or lunch to practice their language skills. Like many, it’s organized through meetup.com, a networking website for community groups (including dozens in the Seattle area).
Everyone has a different reason for being here: Allison Cordrey, the assistant organizer of the Seattle Italian Connection, returned from a trip to Italy a few years ago determined to learn Italian but unable to afford formal classes. Others, such as a Seattle glass artist who lived in Venice, are fluent and want to keep practicing. I need to brush up on the basics of ordering pizza and haggling with cabdrivers before a trip to Naples.
Whether it’s memorizing a few words and phrases in Thai or Japanese or striving to become semi-conversational in Italian or Spanish, making the effort to learn a bit of the local language before traveling always pays off, either in the spirit of general friendliness or outright necessity.
We’re lucky in the Seattle area to have community colleges and private language schools that offer excellent classes. But for those looking for less of a commitment in time or money, there are other ways for travelers to practice and learn.
Go online to meetup.com, type “languages’’ in the search box and find local conversation and cultural groups meeting regularly (and for free) to practice French, Spanish, Italian, German, Russian, even Hindi or Korean.
Every year, Americans around the nation get together to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15th through October 15th. The contributions Hispanic Americans have made to the United States are endless and inspiring, and they have had a profound and positive impact on our county.
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