I arrived overdressed, somewhat harried, and utterly lacking expectations. This is, of course, the best way to approach any situation—or so I’ve heard. I hadn’t been to one before, wasn’t sure if I should go, but boy was I glad I did.
Diskuto’s language corners take place on a beautiful, much overlooked part of the downtown core. Philosopher’s Walk is an excellent place to get in the mood for love… of languages. I came to speak French, I saw that it wasn’t the only tongue in play, and I conquered my first phrases in Spanish. Wonderful outcome for a suit-sporting and somewhat late participant, wouldn’t you say?
The opportunity presented by this fabulous little team of superbly multilingual individuals is based on a simple premise: come here, and speak “_(insert language here)_” with others who are either experts, students, or somewhere in between. But beware, Diskuto corners deliver more than they offer. You may inadvertently learn deep secrets of mathematical philosophy, current affairs in Spain, have a prolonged discussion on Theology, or indeed, find out that “regalo” means “gift” en español. (Yes, they have presents for us newbies!)
These corners offer what no language course that I’ve so far taken has: fear-free chit-chat in a language you’d really like to speak. Participants at the corners jostle for the opportunity to help you learn new words, improve spoken grammar, and listen to us stumbling, stuttering novices with an incredibly compassionate intensity, as though our next words hold the keys to the secret of immortality. What more could you ask for from a meet-up?
Well, I got a bit more. Unbidden, the experience of speaking various languages with an international group of people at the French and Spanish corners triggered a memory. Once upon a time, in Germany, far, far away…. I sat at a patio on a sparsely populated Platz, wishing I’d paid more attention in German class. When you’re far away from home, immersed in a country where your mother tongue is but a distant memory, hearing a language that you know feels like someone just wrapped you in the blankie you drooled on when you were a toddler. Sitting alone at this über-Deutsch pub, unable to share so much as a joke with the waitress, I heard French. Well, it was like I’d been dipped in a hot spring, so warmly did I feel towards… whom? The only other occupied table, now the focus of my attention, had two men sitting at it. My sense of isolation broke through my shyness, and I began spouting French as fast as I could think it. In a few moments, I was in conversation with two complete strangers who made me feel like I was at home (It didn’t hurt that one of them was exceedingly hot). I soon had two new friends, had learned some appropriate German phrases, and felt a lot less lost in that far off land.
Language corners can be that patio in Germany for those not native to Toronto. Walking down the winding, tree strewn path of the Philosopher’s Walk and hearing familiar phonemes from a distance can be an instant comforting cure for homesickness. I know I felt wonderful being able to jabber in French, support others in their language learning experience, and—I was so not expecting this—learn how to say ‘how de do’ in Korean!
Will I “Diskute” again? What other torrid international romances will these linguistic wanderings uncover? Want to know? I sure do… so check back and find out. And in the meanwhile, love those languages. Like all relationships, they require some work (which can be fun) and some fun (which always works).