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First a coffee, then homework

Invitation to the media to find out about the "Sprachcafé" initiative, which offers a forum to students and asylum seekers

Freiburg, Jul 06, 2017

First a coffee, then homework

Photo: Paulina Steinhilber

Spelling, articles, pronunciation: Anyone learning a foreign language has to put in some hard work for quite some time. It is easier when friends help you learn vocab and grammar. The student initiative Sprachcafé is a project run jointly between the student council for Islamic Studies and the "Start with a Friend" organization. The Sprachcafé is for all students and asylum seekers, giving them a place for exchange while learning languages and getting to know other cultures. Representatives of the media are warmly invited to visit the Sprachcafé on 13 July 2017 from 2pm to 4pm, Belfortstraße 24, 79098 Freiburg.

The focus is on helping each other, says Freiburg student Paulina Steinhilber, who runs the project: "We support those who have fled their home countries - helping with German exercises - and they help us in turn with our Arabic, Kurdish, or Persian studies." This approach enables everyone to meet at the same level - some speak German better, others Arabic. "When you stumble over a difficult work or practice writing the letters over and over as if you were in first grade - that quickly gets a conversation going, with a relaxed atmosphere and funny experiences," Steinhilber says.

The groups meet twice a week and study together over tea, coffee and cake. These meetings are open to both men and women; and Steinhilber is currently organizing a Sprachcafé just for women. "It is often difficult for women from a different culture to take part in events with mixed groups. We want to offer the women a safe framework and to help with integration in a new country and in the university environment."

But the meetings are not just for doing homework. In cooperation with the Freiburg University Amnesty International group, the team holds lectures for the asylum seekers every two weeks, dealing with topics such as sexual violence, sexual identity and orientation, freedom of speech and religion. "We organize the lectures like little workshops and discuss the most important information on human rights," Steinhilber explains. "There was particular interest in issues like women's rights and the rights of homosexuals."

The German Academic Exchange Service is funding the Sprachcafé for an initial ten months starting in April 2017. The initiative is linked with Islamic Studies at the University of Freiburg's Orientalisches Seminar.

Information on the Sprachcafé

Paulina Steinhilber
University of Freiburg