Written by Joey Nunez
Photos courtesy of the Language Lounge
Like Mokpo, Gwangju offers its own language group, called the Language Lounge. During the final week of July this year, the Language Lounge will celebrate its 140th consecutive week of bringing together different people groups to meet, converse, and enjoy each other’s company. The group currently meets every Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m. at Café Oma in downtown Gwangju (광주광역시 동구 서석로 85).
Jem Soma, one of the group’s current leaders, is proud of the success in sustainability that the Language Lounge has experienced since November 2014, as she explained the group’s two-hour routine: “After 10 to 15 minutes, we mix the tables so participants have the opportunity to talk to a variety of other people.”
Soma is also pleased with how the meetings run on their own, with new recruitment and steady commitment occurring easily, despite the group’s multiple changes. “People go back to their home countries, new people arrive in Korea, and new members join. I think that another factor that keeps our group running is that new people join each week,” Soma explained.
The Language Lounge has flourished as group members receive one-on-one and group assistance while learning and practicing Korean and/or English. During the 2015 Universiade activities, international collegiate athletes competed in events. Some of them heard about the Language Lounge and made time outside of their competitions to join the group. “We had so many people that we didn’t all fit in the café where we were at that time,” Soma recalls.
Soma herself arrived in Korea in July 2015 as a working-holiday volunteer for Mr. Hwang, who is the founder of the Language Lounge. She has found the group beneficial for both Korean residents, so they can “make international friends and practice their English,” and for international residents, so they can “meet other international residents, make Korean friends, and practice their Korean.” “For me,” Soma added, “it is the easiest way to meet new friends, practice my Korean and English, and keep up to date with events in Gwangju and other recent news.”
Along with the benefit of learning two languages, Soma sees additional benefits for members of this weekly group. “I know that some of the members are very good friends who spend a lot of time outside of the Language Lounge together. Others have found a boyfriend or girlfriend.”
The group welcomes all learners to come to this relaxed environment for learning Korean and/or English, no matter their length of commitment. Soma shared that the group even welcomes Korean students who come only for one or two Saturdays, so they can practice their English before taking university exams. Soma also enjoys the friendships she has made with the regular 10-15 Language Lounge members who have been coming every week so far this year.
Soma is grateful to Mr. Hwang and every person who has made the Language Lounge the success that it is from 2014 to today. “I want to thank all of our volunteers who have hosted the Language Lounge during their free time in Korea, and to all our members. We welcome everyone who wants to join us in the future, and we look forward to many more Saturdays full of fun and cultural exchange,” she shared.
For more information about Language Lounge online, visit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/languagelounge/.