29 Jun 2016

Hej! Ciao! Ola!: Say hey to Hull’s language Café

Learning another language doesn’t need to be a chore – we took a trip down Newland Ave to find out exactly why…

Okay, so think back to those French and German classes you had at school. For those of you that bossed it… nice one kids, whip out the gold stars. However for some of us, it wasn’t such an easy task. Some of us simply don’t have the time, money or energy to focus on the task, while many insist that they’ll get by ‘just fine’ with good old English.

Well, you can, but it has to be said, investing your time into learning another language can benefit you in more ways than you think. Learning a new language can give you the opportunity to meet new people, enhance your CV, or even move to an entirely different country. It’s also been proven to help memory spans, multitasking abilities, build confidence and delay the effects of both dementia and Alzheimer’s. Pretty good ey? Plus, once you master another language, it actually gets easier to learn more.

So, considering the benefits, it may be an idea to say goodbye to all those little thoughts bubbling away in your cauldron of excuses and take a fresh approach by getting yourself down to the language café over at Lydia’s Cakeaway.

Thanks to Hull lass Hannah Shaw, the café situated over on Newland Ave is currently thriving and more than happy to welcome new faces. After completing her language degree in Sheffield, Hannah studied for a year abroad and then moved to France for two years where language cafés are a pretty big thing.

Hannah wanted to continue learning languages and set up her very own version here in Hull. Hannah’s mentality was ‘Well, if I can’t find one, I may as well set one up’. Since then, the café has grown massively. ‘During the first week, my Mum and Dad came along for moral support’ Hannah says, ‘now we attract all sorts of people and many are non UK natives’. Visitors generally come and go, many attend uni and are in the city for work placements.


Obviously, it’s not just Hannah who has benefitted from the café. Various people from all kinds of nationalities have popped along to see what all the fuss is about. One of these is Brigitte Niblett, a German who has lived in England for over 40 years and Hull for over 30. When Brigitte first heard about the language café she was simply ‘over the moon’ as she has friends who live over in Israel she would be able to speak to more confidently and frequently as a result of attending. One other example is Elliot, originally from Lincoln but who came to Hull to study languages at university. Elliot was very apprehensive of coming down at first, but since making the brave step, he has made a whole bunch of friends and his confidence has increased dramatically. Elliot now plans to use his language skills to travel across Europe.


Some attendees such as Carlos, a Spanish project engineer from Hull, enjoys learning languages like French and German so he can then use for business purposes when he flies abroad, whilst Chinese student Hu Fangjian is keen to learn French after studying Japanese at university. Hu feels the café has been a great way to make friends particularly because of its ‘relaxed’ atmosphere.

‘Everybody is a learner here and there’s no pressure like when you’re at school and you’ve got to give an answer. You can just come along and sit and listen if you really wanted!’

Hannah Shaw

Despite the lengthy list of languages that Hannah’s already mastered, including French, German, Italian and Spanish, the next language on the cards is Chinese. ‘I really wanted to try a non-European one’ says Hannah, ‘it will also be useful for my paid job, because I work in an ethics and compliance department. It’ll come in handy when speaking to our clients.’ Speaking French initially gave Hannah the confidence to move abroad, which she wouldn’t have done otherwise. ‘Generally abroad, people tend to appreciate if you can speak their own language, once I was given free ice-cream in Italy for speaking Italian’.


Events such as Assemble Fest have also given the café the opportunity to promote to a larger audience, particularly to those who don’t necessarily engage online. ‘It’s difficult to attract people that don’t use social media’ says Hannah, ‘especially older people who could be really interested’. The Polish community are another audience the café is aiming to reach out to. As well as this, Hannah would like to hold workshops to show languages can be a fun activity if delivered in the right way. ‘Here, it’s all about fun and socialising and seeing the different amount of friends you can get from learning’ Hannah claims.

To be honest, even if you don’t fancy learning another language, perhaps a dating opportunity is on the cards. Hannah and Carlos are now a pretty sweet couple.

The language café are part of the Hull 2017 community brand, a way to publicly show support for Hull’s year as UK City of Culture. The community brand is a stamp of support, a seal of approval and a commitment to help make 2017 fantastic.

Be part of the story and find out more or check out more from the language café group online.


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