It’s Friday evening in the Montevideo neighborhood of Pocitos. I am approaching Costa Azul Café where the Montevideo Language Exchange is meeting. I see a long row of tables outside with more than 20 people sitting on each side. As I approach, the subtle humid scent of the city gives way to the smell of pizza.
There is not an open seat anywhere. Doug, the original meeting organizer, talks to the waiters who bring out an additional table to add to the long row so my novia and I have a place to sit. During the evening I will speak with friends I see regularly and friends I have not seen in a long time. I will meet new people from Montevideo and other parts of the world. I will get recommendations for good places to visit, good places to eat, and good books to read.
|Montevideo Language Exchange gathering at Costa Azul Cafè in Pocitos|
The Montevideo Language Exchange meets at a restaurant in Pocitos every other Friday. People start arriving at 8 pm and the last people usually leave sometime after 11 pm. At recent meetings there have been between 40 and 50 people attending.
The gathering was started by Doug, an expat living in Montevideo. Doug speaks English and Spanish and became active on the language-learning website, Livemocha.com. Many of the people he connected with online were Uruguayans who wanted to improve and practice their English.
Doug came up with the idea of bringing the Uruguayans who wanted to practice English and the native English-speaking foreigners in Montevideo together in a comfortable social setting. The result was the Montevideo Language Exchange.
At the very first Language Exchange 95% of the people who came were Uruguayans, and there weren’t enough native English-speakers for them to practice their English. Now, three years later, there are about 30 to 40% Uruguayans and 60 to 70% native English-speaking expats and travelers.
The Montevideo Language Exchange has met at several different restaurants. Some of the restaurants went out of business. Others didn’t work out for the group’s needs. “I try to find places with a big enough space so we can comfortably talk to each other. I also choose places with menu choices that are affordable for everyone. If someone wants to come and just get a coke or a hotdog, they can,” says Doug.
Right now the meetings are held at Costa Azul Cafè at Tomàs Diago 843 at the corner of Scoserìa. “Ironically, this is the same place we met for the first Language Exchange in December 2009,” says Doug.
If you live in Montevideo or are planning a trip to Montevideo and would like to join the group, you can sign up to be notified about future meetings on the Montevideo Language Exchange Facebook page, or contact Katherine Archer firstname.lastname@example.org