Last Wednesday, over 250 students gathered for the Language Exchange Meeting at UL. This popular event is organised every semester for the past 20 years by the Language Learning Hub, School of Modern Languages and Applied Linguistics.
The principle of a Language Exchange Meeting is very simple: pairing international and UL students to promote language and cultural learning. UL hosts a very multicultural and multilingual population with over a thousand international students coming to our institution each year (mostly from Europe, North and South America and Asia). In parallel, our language students (approximately one thousand, studying French, German, Spanish or Japanese) can avail of study exchange programmes and participate in internship programmes abroad. There is thus an invaluable opportunity to promote internationalisation in this environment with the implementation of language exchanges which bring Erasmus and international students into contact with home students. For the latter it serves as a chance to further develop their linguistic and cultural knowledge. For foreign students, it is an opportunity to meet UL students, practice English and it also facilitates their integration into UL and the Irish society in general.
Ran by Catherine Jeanneau (coordinator of the Language Learning Hub), with the help of student volunteers, the event last Wednesday attracted over two hundred and fifty students including UL undergraduates and some postgraduates as well as international students of various nationalities speaking thirteen different native languages (including languages such as French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Korean). It was attended by students across faculties (Humanities, Business, Education, and Engineering) with levels of second language competence ranging from elementary to advanced. Students join the event in order to find a language partner and engage in tandem learning. These face-to-face conversations involving two speakers of different native languages (and different cultural backgrounds) meeting in-person are therefore a fantastic opportunity to raise cultural awareness and encourage linguistic diversity among students in UL.