Last year at the Scuola Vivante we launched the English lunch – where students would bring a packed lunch and join me, their English teacher, to speak English informally together over lunch. It was mostly the older students who came, and they enjoyed using their English in a slightly different context.
This term the English lunch and the French lunch take place on a Monday and Tuesday, respectively. On these days the school cook, Rosanna, prepares a meal for the whole school. So those taking part in the English lunch or French lunch have their meal together in a separate room upstairs. Having a cooked meal is better than individual packed lunches because it encourages more natural communication – questions and phrases you would expect to hear and use during a meal in any language:
“Can you pass me the bowl, please?”
“Would you like some more salad?”
“This is really nice!”
“I’ll go and get some more water.”
Of course, alongside these functional phrases of how to ‘do’ lunch, we also talk about a whole range of other topics in the students’ lives. We might discuss what we all did over the previous weekend (including a student’s visit to an air show), we sometimes discuss something that’s happened in the news. We may even talk about why English has no real equivalent for the Swiss German “en guete” at the beginning of the meal!
But what we actually talk about is not as important as the simple fact that students are practising their language skills. They are all becoming more confident speakers and are aware that using language in a more authentic, real-life context is important.