Marta Kiejrys, organizer of Poznań’s Social English Night at Kolejka Pub sat down to chat about the weekly free conversation event and how it helps to bring the city’s communities closer together. Though an informal evening of conversation, the event not only helps people practice their English, but also builds up the community. Launched in 2016 by the language school, Talkersi, the event has grown from a small group of Polish people hoping to improve their English to a much larger community, attracting a loyal following of foreigners and locals alike.
Since 2016, Social English Night has hosted 200 editions in five cities, according to Talkersi founder, Wiktor Jodłowski.
Speed Dating Without the Dating
Kiejrys describes the event as “speed dating without the dating… it’s unpredictable — you never know who you’re going to speak to next. It’s unorganized in an somewhat organised way. Controlled chaos,” she says. “It gives people the opportunity to open up.”
Marta first gives the participants a few minutes to chill, order a beverage, and break the ice. However, during the main event, participants have to pair up and have only a few minutes to chat before switching to the next partner. Marta often lets talkers go over time, but sometimes talkers don’t want to switch because they’re having such good conversation. “They ask, ‘do we have to change?’” “Yes,” she explained with a slightly mischievous smile. “It’s to get people out of their comfort zones.”
Poznań’s Social English Night Involved and Diverse
In addition to her normal work as a teacher, Kiejrys organizes the weekly meetup. She says many Polish people don’t have many opportunities to speak to foreigners in their daily lives. Though Poland is becoming more diverse, the country is still largely homogenous. Nevertheless, Poznań’s event is Social English Night’s most involved and diverse group with participants hailing from such countries as Spain, Portugal, Cameroon, UK, and Brazil. Marta hopes the event exposes people to different points of view — only for the cost of a drink from the host pub.
She joked “People sometimes ask me, ‘where’s the catch?’ I say ‘you’re my catch,’” referring to how she casts a wide net on social media to attract people to the event. “When people show up, my job is successful.” Many people are regular attendees and keep coming back not so much for the English, but more for the community of people — just to hang out. Building personal and professional networks is one main advantage. There’s even a romantic couple, Marta says.
The spontaneity of the events lends an element of the unknown. Even Marta is not certain who will show up, or what the level of the speakers will be. Some talkers are apprehensive about the level, but Marta urges them to stay and find out for themselves. “Try it,” she says, “I only organize and greet the participants, you do the rest.”
Social English Night is every Wednesday at 18:30 at Kolejka pub at Wielka Street 27 just off the Old Market Square. Even though the event is free, please register through the event website so there’s an accurate headcount.
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