Every Thursday evening Rome-based maths teacher Andrew Marmion from Scotland organises an event called Extreme Language Exchange to foster communication between Italian and English speakers. The initiative is designed in a casual yet structured fashion where participants enjoy an aperitivo while conducting a series of one-on-one conversations with a native speaker of the other language. Each conversation lasts ten minutes, five in English and five in Italian, after which participants change partners. Think of it as speed dating, with the dating part only there if you want it to be. The format helps to break the monotony of a sometimes painful and tedious exchange of ideas that can be limiting with only one partner. It also exposes participants to a variety of contacts and therefore to greater cultural and grammatical understanding. If you happen to have a liking for one person, you are free to organise a language tandem with them privately. Or another kind of tandem.
The event takes place downstairs in the Mate Bar in Trastevere and attracts a range of participants from diverse age groups and backgrounds. There are about ten cozy tables assembled in a charming underground chamber with about four people at each table. The event begins at 19.30 and typically lasts until about 22.00, with each participant having five or more conversations during the course of the evening.
To assist in initiating the conversations, Marmion provides a stimulus plan. The sheet is designed to encourage conversation with a list of vocabulary words, current events topics and colloquialisms, puns and idioms. With this presentation of modi di dire one can practice cultural expressions in addition to new vocabulary. This is particularly useful also in learning about people