The LGBT Language Café pilot project which will start at the end of this month will enable queer people from across Edinburgh to meet to practise their English, share cultural interests or just simply socialise. The LGBT Language Café is open to anybody whose first language is not English and who identifies as LGBTQI or who is exploring or questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The LGBT Language Café is an informal, safe space, not a classroom, so there is no formal teaching and are never any lessons or tests. Rather, LGBT Health and Wellbeing runs the Café to support LGBTQI people who do not speak English as a first language, to gain confidence in their spoken English in a friendly, informal environment.
The aim of the Language Café is to provide a supportive social space where individuals can take part in activities to improve their knowledge and understanding of spoken English, overcome cultural barriers or obstacles and chat and meet new people.
The LGBT Language Café will be run initially for four weekly sessions with staff and volunteer support, and will lead topical group discussions, games, fun and much more.
“The LGBT Language Café”, explains Jules Stapleton Barnes, Community Development Worker from LGBT Health and Wellbeing, “aims to reach out to minority ethnic LGBTQI people based in Edinburgh who want to improve their confidence with spoken English and feel more connected to an LGBT community. We recognise that people use many different labels for themselves and some, none at all, so it is also important to us that people feel welcome to join if they are questioning or exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Currently there is no such space in Scotland and Jules thinks it could be an important resource for LGBTQI people who are not native to the English language or Scotland, who may find it difficult otherwise to socialise in the capital’s scene.
“The café aims to help people from different ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, including those who are particularly marginalised and vulnerable, to have a safe place, overcome their isolation and feeling of exclusion,” said Jules to KaleidoScot.
“In Edinburgh, if somebody does not speak a lot of English, or isn’t confident with their spoken English, it can be difficult to connect with other LGBTQI people and the wider community. LGBT Health and Wellbeing provides a wide range of support and social opportunities so we want to make sure people know what’s available but more importantly, feel included.”
Jules added: “Our planning for the LGBT Language Café has raised interesting questions about use of language and how non-native speakers might use words and labels. For example, for many non-native English speakers the use of gender neutral pronouns is a novelty or unfamiliar. So the LGBT Language Café will hopefully facilitate a new experience to learn and use language to express and celebrate different identities.
“We will basically encourage participants to lead what happens in the café and we will help facilitate friendly, laid back sessions with games, two volunteers, support and information. We have already had interest from LGBTQI people of Italian, Polish and Asian backgrounds.”
Through hearing about people’s experiences and what they need, LGBT Health and Wellbeing is hoping is to learn how to make their services and events more inclusive for people from different ethnic backgrounds.
“There are also many volunteering roles with LGBT Health and Wellbeing, and volunteers enrich our services through sharing their experience and many different skills. It would be a great outcome of the LGBT Language Café, if increased the accessibility of these opportunitie,” added Jules.
The first session will be a “Getting to know you” theme which will touch upon LGBT community life; identities, language and labels, information and support.”
The LGBT Language café will run on Tuesday evenings for four weeks, from the 28th July to the 18th August, at LGBT Health and Wellbeing’s Edinburgh centre, at 9 Howe Street EH3 6TE, Edinburgh.
For more information and to book your free place at the sessions, contact Jules via firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 0131 523 1104.