"The café must be a safe place to just speak Swedish"

Anna Lundberg is a librarian at the City Library. "We want the language café to be a safe place," she says.
Anna Lundberg is a librarian at the City Library. "We want the language café to be a safe place," she says.

A chat that begins with animals, and ends with a discussion about different forms of yoga: this is what a typical Tuesday afternoon can look like at the City Library, where a language café takes place every week

Skellefteå 3 mars 2023 11:18

About fifteen people from near and far have gathered at the City Library. 

The cafe starts with a few moments during which everyone says their first name, and can also disclose where they come from. It emerges that the participants have found their way to Skellefteå from all corners of the world. Some natives are also here, helping to keep the chat going. When librarians Monika Oskarsson and Anna Lundberg show pictures of different animals, the conversation around the table starts.

– I want you to correct me when I say something wrong, someone says.

Monika replies that they can certainly do that, but the idea of the cafe is not that it should be teaching.

– This is an opportunity to meet and just speak Swedish, she says.

As any newcomer who has tried to speak Swedish in public can attest, their efforts are sometimes criticised by locals, who think they are trying to help. Such early criticism can deter newcomers from trying to speak Swedish in public again. 

The café therefore offers an environment where you're allowed to get things wrong without feeling you're being judged.

The language confusion leads to occasional misunderstandings and big laughs, but somehow everyone manages to understand each other in the end. Some local and dialectal expressions pop up, and the Google Translate app is often consulted on the participants' phones.

According to one of the returning participants, the cafe is usually well attended.

– There are probably a few more than normal today, but there are always people here, he says.

The cafe runs this spring between 3 and 4.30 pm. It's free and no registration is required. The organizers are Skellefteå Municipality/City Library and the Campus Library, where the cafe is also sometimes held. 

According to Anna, everyone is welcome, but especially those who need to practice Swedish in a safe environment.

– We want this to be a place where you can dare to get things wrong, says Anna.

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