We had a conversation class tonight with about 20 English learners, in Blenz cafe on the corner of Richards and Hastings in Vancouver. It has been raining hard the last few days and I am concerned about the snow conditions in the nearby mountains, especially Whistler.
People like to get together and talk in a foreign language. Really I should run a bistro where people can just meet and talk in English or other languages they are learning. I also like meeting people and talking, in whatever language. Yet just getting together to talk, as important as it is, is not enough. People still need to work at their language. You cannot get away from listening and reading and deliberately adding to your vocabulary of words and phrases.
I had been listening to a Chinese CD of The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the famous Chinese epic novel. Now I am listening to a history of Sweden in Swedish. I also have the book which is word for word the same as the CDs. It is very interesting to learn about the history of Sweden and I have the impression that I am learning better than if I just read the book. After listening to a chapter I read the book. This is really a very effective way to learn anything, even in your own language. It is even more effective for learning a foreign language.
I think that the combination of CDs and books could replace much of what is taught in lectures at universities. With an Internet chatroom, voice and text, with other learners and the professor, who needs to attend classes. The rest of the learning should take place in a cafe or bar or discussion place.