We are delighted to announce that the winner of our 2012 Multilingualism in the Community Award is the Language Cafés project based in Dalarna, Sweden. Here, Mandy Bengts, coordinator of the Language Cafés, tells us a bit more about the project and how the prize money will help them to develop their scheme further.
Located in the heart of Sweden, Dalarna University (Högskolan Dalarna) may be quite small, but it also happens to be home to one of Sweden’s largest language faculties with 11 bustling and busy language departments, and an online Language Centre to its name.
With so much diversity, it is only natural that the university’s Language Cafés have come to be as popular as they are today. Every second Monday, anybody who wishes can come to these free cafés, where “How are yous?” and “Who are yous?” and “How do you say thats?” are shared in a number of languages, with a native-speaker host there to assist when conversation gets stuck and grammar bars the way.
What we, the delighted winners of this year’s Multilingualism in the Community Award, noticed, however, is that although our cafés draw people from diverse backgrounds (and certainly not always just students), there were still members of the community that were conspicuous by their absence: where were our Thai, our Somalian, our Turkish, our Iranian (among others) community members? These are cultural groups that are integral to contemporary Swedish society and that are as welcome to our language cafés as our current (predominantly Swedish) participants are. Our mission has now become to find a means of involving them too!
Our ideas didn’t stop there either…
We also wondered about Sign Language: it too should have a place at our language cafés… and what about pupils with special needs who might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn a second language?
Now that we have won the wonderful amount of some 20 000 SEK, the doors of possibility have swung generously open.
We want to use the money to be even more inclusive. All those kronor will allow us to organise more cafés at times and places that suit more people. We will visit organisations that work with newcomers to Sweden to learn about how we can provide them with this opportunity to share “Coffee with a Multicultural Flavour”. We want to give them the chance to get to know their Swedish neighbours in informal but planned language café get-togethers – a chance that will allow the “Swedish neighbours” to get to know them too. We would like to enrol student ambassadors (Education Students), who can spread the ethos of our language cafés to pupils with special needs. And of course multicultural events can only enrich these ideas, so why not organize events that are as meaningful to these many groups as “The Crayfish Party” is to Swedes?!
So yes, lots of ideas and lots of planning and lots of worthwhile work ahead. We at Dalarna University’s Language Centre would like to thank Multilingual Matters for providing us with this opportunity to develop and grow: tack så hemskt mycket!