The coronavirus crisis turned our world upside down, bringing unexpected challenges in our workplaces and at home. With premises closed during the lockdown period, our challenge at Leman Language Services was to offer language training as well as an online community for learners during the lockdown isolation.
In mid-March, we launched our LLS Babbel Language Programme to help students learn French, German or English, whether for work or pleasure. Just like our regular courses, this training is ideal for professionals who want to upskill for work, people who need to meet FIDE permit requirements, or immigrants who need French for everyday situations.
During the first week, students got to grips with the Babbel platform and started lessons in their chosen language. In the second week, they received weekly 30-minute coaching sessions with our qualified trainers. In these sessions, participants practised their oral skills and worked on areas they were struggling with. By the third week, the online language café was up and running, providing a meeting place where every student is welcome whatever their language level. We wanted to give learners the opportunity to work together, give each other support and encouragement, and to have fun. We know that building close relationships between trainers, students and peers through regular communication helps motivate students.
The language café, held via Zoom, was open every Tuesday from 8 pm until 9 pm and timed so we could join the national applause for medical staff. Each week, between five and ten students took part as well as our IT manager and LLS director.
The online café helped students meet each other and complete challenges online, swapping language skills with other learners and developing their confidence in discussions.
As an example, students learning English studied false friends and true friends on the Babbel platform and then explained this to an English-speaking student. Then the student learning French gave examples of false friends and true friends to the native French speaker. Language swapping has proved to be an interactive way of using the Babbel platform.
The café challenges included: workplace phone conversation role play based on Babbel lessons; finding out three things the student’s language partner would do when shops re-open; and finding out what the student’s language partner would do if a genie granted them three wishes to make the world a better place.
One of the discussion questions was: If you could clone any past world leader and ask them to run the world, who would it be? Strong world leadership is in the spotlight right now, so this prompted a healthy discussion.
To get the most from the café, students were asked to prepare for the challenges beforehand. Participants were paired at the same language level so they would face the same challenge but in a different language. They worked with each other in breakout rooms on Zoom with 10 minutes for each challenge and then came together again to demonstrate their challenge to the whole group.
We hoped the café would brighten people’s week during this difficult time and it certainly seemed to lift spirits. The flexible lessons and motivating learning environment got the thumbs up from students too. This is what some of them said about the programme:
“Learning and practicing French in my own time anywhere and with a flexible coach works well for me. I travel most of the time for work, making it hard for me to be in an in-person classroom setting.” - Joy-Eva B.
“The Babbel platform is dynamic, fun and tailored to your needs. My LLS coach directed me by addressing my English weaknesses with competence, care and inspiration.” - Silvia D.
“I participated in the Zoom cafes and had a lot of fun. The themes were well chosen and receiving them beforehand allowed me to prepare. These moments have been for me open windows to different worlds during these weeks of confinement.” - Maria A.
Our trainers were also delighted with the success of the pilot programme. They were able to work during the lockdown period and continue their passion to help students learn languages with ease and enjoyment.
The test phase during March and April was so well received that we are continuing with this blended learning approach. By combining the Babbel learning platform, weekly 30-minute oral lessons with a Leman Language Services trainer and the language café where you can meet and practise with other students, we have developed an e-learning programme that works for our students. Whether you are learning for self-development or to further your career, we take the same dedicated approach, so you get the most from your learning experience.
If you would like to try this programme, we are taking new registrations with the language café starting again on 9 June 2020. Contact LLS Director Lara Takache today and you could soon be speaking a new language! Email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +41 76 560 35 71.
Written by Tracy B./LLS
Photo courtesy of Unsplash