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A Break from Stammtisch and Schweizer Taschenmesser: Language Cafe Review

As a German student, I have one too many times been the target of my professor’s routine reminder to put my speaking efforts into practice. Hesitant about the extent of my German capabilities, I brushed up on my nominativ, genitiv, dativ, akkusativ and succumbed to the pressure, venturing to Beacon Bar at the Union on Thursday 3 November for the first Language Cafe of the semester.

A long table adorned with a large German and Swiss flag at the centre - the event was at once recognisable. The jarring “Hey - is this the language cafe?” was met with friendly smiles and a welcoming “sprichst du Deutsch?”.

After reinforcing the limited nature of my speaking abilities, conversation began with the classics: “Where are you from? How long have you been learning German?” It then rapidly took off at full swing, sequencing from spontaneous chatter to the occasional inquiry about the suitable use of der, die, das. All was tenderly received! We sporadically switched from German to English, encompassing the desires and wishes of all those attending. I was amused by the dynamism of the conversation — listening to those around me felt like I was immersed into one of my German class oral comprehensions.

From enhancing your memory skills to stimulating your creativity, countless benefits arise from pushing your comfort boundaries by learning new languages. The setting both simultaneously incited linguistic practice and cultural openness. Hence, the proximity and lively personal contact were an agreeable change to the usual monotony of upkeeping your Duolingo streaks.

The event was put together by the joint efforts of the St Andrews German and Swiss society. President of the German Society, Antonia Naujocks, described the motivation behind the collaborative event as “creating a space of both ease and inclusivity.” They organise a wide scope of events throughout the year - from Stein arm-balancing fun at their Oktoberfest-themed Stammtisch in Aikman’s Cellar Bar early on in the year, to German wine-tasting sessions. Currently, an upcoming trip to Edinburgh Christmas Market is in the works, with tickets ranging from approximately £10-12.

The Swiss Society has only recently been affiliated with the university, starting off as a group of Swiss friends keen to relish memories from home. President Sascha Schulz recalls that “it fosters a strong sense of warmth and community”. Aside from the Language Cafe, the society organises an array of different events including ‘Fondue Sessions’ and the techno occasion ‘Schweizer Taschenmesser’. Now, both societies comprise a fruitful mix of members, merging together both nationals and those eager to learn and discover.

Ultimately, the Language Cafe was an opportunity for spirited dialogue accompanied by a cosy drink in hand. Aside from being one of the few St Andrews events where you aren’t jarred by the overwhelming sounds of “yahs”, it allows you to prosper your learning capacities in a relaxed environment. The event seamlessly fused together both the sense of home and comfort for the natives and the unfamiliarity of those learning, in order to create a truly inclusive environment.

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