Conceptualizing a Café des Langues in Rennes

Reflections, project co-creation, and delivery


Why a “Language Café”?

While I was teaching English in France, I wondered about what would happen to my students’ language learning after they left my classroom. Most of the time, it was nearly impossible for me to follow-up with them, except for a potential coffee now and then. Would the students continue learning? Did I manage to give them enough resources, enough confidence, enough know-how to find what they needed and chunk their time so as to allow for continued language expression and interaction?

After several months, I recontacted some past students to ask what they had become since our classes. Most responded to my e-mail, some even asked to meet for that aforementioned coffee meetup. When we talked, I realized that they were enthusiastic to speak in English again, but some had not had the opportunity to speak English but once or twice since our last class together. For certain students, our “last class” was multiple years prior to that coffee meetup. There was not a lack of interest, a lack of time, or even a lack of speakers. In fact, they all mentioned that they never had the opportunity to practice the language.

The problem was clear: after taking language classes, there was no follow-up put into place to check in periodically on their language evolution. Despite a bounty of resources, interaction with real people was lacking.

This made me think of the Café des Langues that I experienced when I lived in Le Mans. Not only was it a convivial, comfortable event for language interaction among language learners and native speakers alike, but also it reconvened a diversity of people who might not otherwise have interacted without the event. The need for relaxed language interaction in a cooperative space, especially in small groups with natural, spontaneous, self-driven conversation (as opposed to topics imposed on language learners) became the mission of the Rennes Café des Langues.

Concretely, what is a Café des Langues?

Despite its name, a Language Café is not a building. It is an event where people who are learning a language/ languages come together to a specified place, meet new people, and interact with other language-learners. It is yet another opportunity for language learners to practice their language ability in a non-judgmental, co-constructive space.

Do language exchange opportunities exist already in Rennes?

Of course! As a base guideline, the purpose of the Café des Langues in Rennes is not to be a competitor to other language exchange opportunities, but to add to the opportunities for language learners to reconvene and boost their language skills in fun, relaxed environments. The organizing team believes that competition among these types of events eventually leads to a lack of motivation to attend. That is the opposite of what we want! So, by working in tandem, by supporting each other and promoting each other’s events, we may promote the linguistic diversity that exists already in Rennes.

I began to visit other language exchange opportunities in Rennes, notably BlablaExchange and language exchange sessions at the Service Civique in Les Champs Libres. Both were phenomenal! I had so much fun while interacting each time with people of all ages and from different walks of life. Even as a native speaker, I found myself learning so much from English language learners, that I continued with Spanish, Italian, French, and Chinese language exchanges. My motivation increased while I found myself using my errors to evolve in my language learning.

What purposes does a language café event serve?

The benefits are numerous, but I will summarize them in four bullet points. Language Café events:

  • enable informal language interaction to occur within a relaxed atmosphere
  • eliminate the performance pressure felt when speaking a foreign language by putting everyone “in the same boat”
  • beget opportunities for further language interaction outside the event (through promoted workshops, meetups, even friendships built on language exchange)
  • promote inclusion and the importance of linguistic and cultural diversity through serendipitous encounters

Who is behind the project?

We are a team made up of six people: three co-directors and three project coordinators (PC) who are Master’s students from the Didactique et Linguistique des Langues parcours at Rennes 2 University. My roles as co-director are the logistical aspects of each event, planning and roadmapping the Café’s, forging partnerships and staying active within the language-learning community, and conceptualizing project “mini-internships” for Master’s students that balance their pedagogical and professional goals with the needs of the Café. The co-directors have diverse networks that allow the Café to stay relevant and well-connected.

The PC team (the students) work hard in three separate categories: communication, research, and instructional/pedagogical design.

Communication: this PC works on the graphic design and online dissemination of the event. Flyers, posters, publicity and color scheme theory are inherent to this category. The way in which the communication is carefully handled allows the PC to work on soft and hard skills like project design, marketing strategies, project management, community outreach, group collaboration, and social media management.

Research: this PC works on the data-driven support to the project. Questionnaires, data collection, reflection, doubt, and feedback are imperative to this category. In order to make well-informed, project management-related decisions, this PC’s research is crucial. Their role mixes research ethics, field study, data dissemination, and collaboration in order to work on hard and soft skills including data presentation, quantitative data-driven decision-making, group collaboration, and informed feedback.

Instructional/pedagogical design: Yes, despite the natural, non-academic format of the Language Café, creating an atmosphere conducive to maximal language exchange is essential to (1) augmenting interactions and (2) enabling a plurality of language exchanges on a diversity of subjects. This PC is focused on innovation to the space, the pedagogical supports, and the resources necessary to promote differentiated language interactions. As a result, hard and soft skills like learning methodology development, improving student output, pedagogical space design, critical thinking, qualitative data-driven decision-making, and collaboration are developed and continuously used.

When is the next Café des Langues?

To stay up-to-date on all Rennes Language Café events and offers, please like and follow our Facebook page: Café des Lanuges – Rennes



Cite this blog post
Brendan Geer (2023, February 27). Conceptualizing a Café des Langues in Rennes. Confidence: language learning. Retrieved June 26, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/vvq9

Brendan Geer

Language teaching expert and researcher in language confidence. Founder of Prism: Language Confidence. Also director of the HeOnTe online teaching program, co-director of the Rennes Café des Langues, and cat dad.

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