English afternoon tea: An opportunity for English conversation practice


I really do believe that the best way to learn a language is to use it. In Dijon we have numerous groups where people can meet to speak English: the English table at the Café Polyglotte, SpeakEnglish at Caf and Co and numerous onvasortir ‘sorties’. In October I started organizing my own onvasortir English Afternoon Teas, which have been a real success. Every fortnight or so a group of about ten of us meets in a different Dijon café and speaks English for a couple of hours. We have many regulars, as well as new faces each time and a range of levels. Everyone who comes is always ready to speak English and even though some members struggle to find vocabulary, I have been extremely impressed at their determination not to resort to French!

Admittedly before I started the afternoon teas, I did have some reservations. Firstly, would I feel as if I was teaching? I didn’t want to feel as if I had to constantly correct people or have the onus on me to keep conversation going. Secondly, would the more advanced English-speakers in the group resent having to speak to those with a lower level? Advanced English speakers are great, and I wouldn’t want them to decide not to come back. Finally, would it get boring after a couple of meet-ups with the same people? We might run out of things to talk about.

I am delighted to say that none of these fears have come to bear. For the first, I think that being married to a bilingual Frenchman, I am more than capable of having a conversation in English without feeling the need to correct mistakes. I can still relax, drink tea and eat cakes without worrying about grammar and vocabulary problems. If people want English lessons they will take them. For the second, the advanced members of the group keep coming back, so they must be happy! I suppose they come to have the opportunity to put their English to use, so don’t really mind if the response is a little slow from the other party. And lastly, it doesn’t get boring. The people who come back every time have become friends and there are always new faces to keep things fresh.

And so, if you are an ESL teacher and you’d like to give a little back to the community that you’re living in (and network at the same time), this is a great way to do it. I would also love to hear from anyone who organizes meetings like this already!


6 thoughts on “English afternoon tea: An opportunity for English conversation practice

  1. Natàlia

    I would like to do it but I have some questions.
    Do they pay for the cakes? Do you get some money ?or …they just pay an amount and all is included then?
    Thanks and congratulations for the idea

    1. kirstindijon Post author

      Hi Natalia, thanks for your comment! Usually we hold the afternoon teas in a café and everybody pays for their consumption. I don’t get any money from it; I’m quite happy to have the opportunity to meet some new people and have a cup of tea. I suppose it’s also an excellent promotional tool for me as a teacher. I think it would possible though for teachers or schools to do a similar thing where the tea, coffee and teacher time is included in a certain price. I would love to hear from anyone who has tried this or something similar.

  2. Rob

    You still doing the teas? I am an american who just moved to Dijon and want to connect with others and also help them with English.

    1. kirstindijon Post author

      Hi Rob, yes I think the next one I organize will be in February, I’ll let you know. You should also get in touch with Nancy from Burgundy friends and get on the mailing list for events in the anglophone sphere. Hope to meet you soon!

  3. kathintuscany

    Hello Kirstindijon,
    I’m teaching at a language school in Tuscany, Italy and we are organizing a tea party for November 21 st. I was thinking I ought to structure the event in some way..or provide some material at least.
    We will be holding it at the school, so I guess the students will feel themselves in a didactic environment, non so informal as meeting in a cafe..Did you prepare any materials for your first meeting?
    I have similar initial fears.


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