Finally got the courage to speak Chinese thanks to an innovative language exchange event
How I decided to take part in my first language exchange
When I first saw the SpeakEasy event on Facebook, I thought I would give it a try as I was decided to improve my Chinese and meet new people. I had never taken part in a language exchange event before but this one seemed more fun and interactive so I was curious to see how it would go. Therefore, I enrolled online and went to the Ilha Formosa Café where I was one of the first participants to show up. We were divided in different groups all composed of 5 to 6 people: at my table, we were 4 “foreigners” for 2 locals, the foreigners being an American, two Canadians and me from France.
Ilha Formosa Café had been rearranged for the occasion in a cozy and practical way. Then, the organizers did a rundown of the event’s schedule, explaining how they planned different games, some of which we would play in Chinese and some in English. Before we started, the owners of the Café also made us all chose a drink: with my Taiwanese craft beer, I was ready to start.
Breaking the awkwardness at the beginning
The first part was a group presentation in Mandarin, where we introduced ourselves but also picked random questions among different pieces of paper FRNCi had prepared for us: for example, one of us had to tell his favorite actor or movie. It was interesting and challenging to try to talk in Chinese, especially as my level is pretty mediocre, but the locals were helping us a lot and making us feel at ease.
Fun interaction with Never Have I Ever game
The second part was a Never Have I Ever game in English. We all had a certain number of lives, but the Canadian girl and I lost really quickly after affirmations such as “Never have I ever been able to speak French”, “Never have I ever been clubbing” or “Never have I ever made out with someone I just met”, etc… Both Taiwanese girls from our group actually survived for a long time until the organizers offered to continue to another game. This Never Have I Ever was actually really fun and made us interact a lot with each other: definitely a good idea for any language exchange event.
How I discovered I was a Dumpling (shuǐ jiǎo)
In the third part, we played a game in which we all had behind our backs a post-it with something written on it and we had to found out what it was. The first round was in Chinese with a food theme: I got “Dumplings” which I guessed pretty easily as everyone kept telling me it was really famous in Taiwan. Hopefully I did not get “Stinky Tofu” like the girl next to me. For me it was probably the best activity, as it was challenging and it forced me to think about new ways to formulate my thoughts, as I did not always have the needed vocabulary. The second round was in English with a different theme: it was way easier for me to ask questions in English so after I got the right answer I went to help other people.
Meeting new people and chatting about all topics
After this final game, we got some time to have free discussions with anyone we wanted to talk to. I took the opportunity to talk to locals and to speak as much as I could in Chinese; I also helped some of the people there in French. I particularly was impressed by the fact that everyone, both locals and foreigners, was really participating and trying as hard as they could. When the event finally ended, it was clear that the participants were still eager and willing to discuss as everybody stayed as long as possible inside and then continued talking out in the street. Some of us even decided to go grab a drink afterwards even though we did not know each other before.
To conclude, this SpeakEasy event organized by FRNCi was particularly engaging and fun. I was glad to meet new and interesting people from Taiwan and from the rest of the world. Although I certainly did not suddenly become fluent in Chinese, it helped me be more confident in speaking it with others and realize that I should not be afraid to do mistakes. Moreover, I stayed in contact with some of the people and am currently still doing language exchange with a local I met there, to finally improve my level. Although it was my first language exchange experience, I will definitely try it again in the near future and encourage everyone to do the same as you probably will get better and will certainly have fun.
Still being the wallflower in language exchange meetings? Have fun and meet new friends in Speak Easy events! In our next Speak Easy event, we will be playing popular board games and doing Language exchange at the very same time. See you there.