Stretford’s own Conversation Café teaches more than just English

  • Stretford Public Hall offers ESOL English language skill builders for its international community
  • Learning how to adapt to life in Trafford when English is not your first language
  • Seeking important advice in and around Stretford

Welcome to Trafford’s only Conversation Cafe, a weekly English language class that invites the international community to connect.

The café started over a year ago as a way to provide local people with opportunities to practise their English, away from the long waiting lists for the formal ESOL (English for speakers of Other Language) courses at Trafford College. However the intention was always to provide Stretford’s international community a place to practise speaking skills from all backgrounds and abilities.

Board with words saying I go I went I have I had I buy I bought I eat I ate
The Conversation Cafe was learning about the past tense through a question and answer style game

Friendships within the local community

MC is a “success story” at the Conversation Cafe, after attending classes, he signed up to become a volunteer. “All the people who come here want to join the lessons and want to improve and upgrade their English, just like me.”

“The environment is quite warm and it gives you a chance to speak, whilst in other areas you have no chance to speak out.”

The Conversation Cafe gives those attending the opportunity to meet people. Jane, who is a volunteer at the cafe, says: “I think one of the highlights for me is that I’ve seen three men that come to the Cafe, one from South Sudan, one from Columbia and MC, all going on a bike ride together.”

MC has since joined a local cycling group. He says that one of the reasons he wants to improve his English is so that he can understand his friends better. “We will have lunch in some pub. And when they sit down and they have a general chat, I don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Teaching more than just a language

Gill Borkin teaches the conversation cafe’s classes, after working as an English teacher abroad in Peru, Thailand and Portugal. She says the classes are also a way to learn the skills needed to set up life and live in Stretford, and that some of the classes are set up to learn these skills. The classes usually have a theme which allows international people to become acquainted with British ways of life.

“Sometimes they ask us things about living here, like what does ‘you alright’ mean and we go no, no, everyone says that. Other things like the fear of getting on the bus and not knowing the best way to pay or what you’re supposed to do.” Gil also says that the classes are a great way to build up confidence .

Stretford Public Hall organises a ‘Together Tuesdays’ programme of activities including gardening, yoga and the Conversation Cafe. All of Stretford’s advisory services are run by volunteers on the same day, which allows key volunteers to be introduced in class and the opportunity to chat and seek advice in and around classes.

Gill says that: “being involved in the hall has been just incredible. And it’s, it’s just so it’s just so lovely being here. It’s just a very, very nice feeling. And then I assume people who come to our conversation probably feel the same.”