It was back in November 2022 that the studyFIT English Learning Support project first teamed up with the Institut Obert de Catalunya, Spain, and their students still visit the English Café from time to time. Joan B., who takes English lessons at the IOC, is one of our regulars. He told Rahel Papatheodorou about the role English plays in his day to day life and how his time at the FernUni English Café has wrought rich rewards for his language learning.
The IOC is an online institution, and the learners have diverse profiles. What’s your story?
My academic background is in Chemistry, and I work at a pharmaceutical company. Because I often have to write reports and emails in English and don’t have an opportunity to practise speaking English, I decided to enrol at the language school of the IOC, the Escoles Oficials d’Idiomes (EOI). They offer courses in English, German and Catalan. Initially, I just wanted to improve my conversational skills and had no intention of writing an exam down the road. But the teachers from the EOI as well as the two English Café assistants Rahel and Berra encouraged me to take the exam as well, not only the class. I ended up earning my B2 level certification on the Common European Framework (CEFR).
Which was the most difficult part of the exam for you?
Definitely the oral part but also some listening tasks. You see, I just didn’t feel comfortable speaking English, but now my skills have improved thanks to the English Café!
I’m so pleased to hear that. How did attending the English Café help you, exactly?
Logging in regularly was definitely worthwhile. It helped me a lot in becoming more confident in my speaking abilities, you know? I gained a lot of confidence. At the EOI school we only practise speaking for 30 minutes – not one hour as we do in the English Café – and it was only preparation for the exam, whereas in the English Café we talk about everything… Another important factor was that in the English Café I got to practise listening as well, with a lot of different accents!
Indeed, we have people from all over the world joining the English Café. Some live in Iceland, some in Greece; others are from Italy or Pakistan. I love the diversity!
Yeah, I like that. And this was very helpful to learn to understand all kinds of different accents of non-native speakers of English. What I also liked was that it was just practice with no pressure. Like, if I wanted to join after work I joined, and if not I could go have a beer with friends or something. No pressure at all. It is not like an English Class, rather like a meeting with friends.
Cool, Joan. I’m glad you feel comfortable in the English Café. Now, since you’ve achieved your goal and passed the exam, will you continue to visit the English Café?
The exam wasn’t really the goal. The goal was to improve my English, and I need to do that more. I think we always have to improve our non-native languages. Because if I stopped speaking English now, in one year, all I achieved will be lost again. So yeah, I definitely want to continue coming to the English Café. It helps a lot.
I’m glad! So, what would you recommend to other students who might not have had the chance to drop by the English Café yet?
I can highly recommend that they connect from time to time. I think the main thing I will remember is the confidence I gained when I joined the weekly meetings. Plus, I liked that we are people from all over the world, so you don’t only practise with different accents but also meet a bunch of interesting people. It’s really nice!
So, practice makes not only perfect but apparently also confident! Don’t miss out on this chance to gain a little more confidence to speak English, no matter what your current proficiency level is. Because, as Joan says, if you don’t use it, you might lose it. But the Zoom-based English Café is a good opportunity to use your English, improve your skills and gain confidence without even having to enrol into a class. We are open Mondays and Wednesdays from 5 – 6 pm and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 – 8 pm. See you there!