One of the hardest things for learners of any language is trying to find social and cultural outlets in which they can engage the language in a meaningful and spontaneous way. So often, learners are relegated to staying only within the confines of the formal classroom setting which, although useful and necessary, fails to accurately simulate a real life language environment. This entry will deal strictly with ways that language learners can find easy, affordable and fun opportunities to practice, create and LIVE their target language.
As Conversa Language Solutions is based in Cincinnati, Ohio, we will talk specifically about places in and around the city that offer unique chances for students of ESL to involve themselves in the daily mix of American English life and expression.
In the last few years, Cincinnati has experienced a renaissance in both the downtown and Over the Rhine (OTR) neighborhoods. Each of these distinct and compelling areas offers Cincinnatians as well as ESL students special opportunities to practice their language skills in a cultural and original atmosphere. First, we will talk a bit about the Downtown area.
Starting at the Ohio River and extending north some ten blocks, Downtown Cincinnati possesses a plethora of outlets to practice English! Perhaps the most obvious, and my personal favorite, are Reds games. Cincinnati is a baseball town and our beloved Redlegs are a constant topic of conversation among people all over the city. Baseball is a uniquely American game and attending games will allow students to understand the history of not only baseball itself, but Cincinnati as well. By experiencing baseball in person at Great American Ball Park, learners will in turn be able to engage Cincinnatians on a topic we all understand and undoubtedly have an opinion! Tickets to games are affordable and there is nothing better than a Friday evening game on a summer night with a few friends!
Now, let’s head a little north from the Banks and go up to the Contemporary Arts Center at 44 East 6th Street. This modern and avant-garde museum offers visitors a look into what is happening in the world of painting, sculpture and conceptual art. Although some of the exhibitions are a little off-kilter in relation to the classic sensibility of art, learners who will take the risk of engaging a new and stimulating form of expression will begin to think in and feel the English language. By creating a new experience that is solely based in English, learners create a new paradigm that is not based at all in their native language. Challenges like this are crucial to becoming comfortable in any foreign language.
Ok, the next place on our stop is perhaps the hidden gem of all of Cincinnati. Over at 719 Race Street, passersby will notice a certain pig statue that bears a striking resemblance to the most famous writer in all of the English language- this being none other than William Shakespeare. The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is one of the few theatre companies in the country that is dedicated entirely to the works of the bard from Stratford-upon-Avon. The plays of Shakespeare will not be for everyone, but I suggest you go and see some of the greatest dramatic and poetic expression in the entire world! You will definitely be surprised at how many of the words and phrases that we use every day in the USA come directly from the rhyming stanzas of Shakespeare!
Come on! Let’s go! We’re going over the Rhine to OTR! This historical neighborhood once was the haven of German culture in Cincinnati. At one point in the late 19th Century, OTR produced more beer per capita than Munich, Germany; however two world wars and the prohibition of alcohol during the 1920’s all but decimated the beer industry and German identity in both the neighborhood and city.
Let us not worry, though! In the last few years, the gentrification and rebirth of OTR has been one of the truly exciting things happening in the city, and taking just a short stroll up Vine or Main Street you won’t be able to miss the many restaurants, stores, and bars that have made OTR their new home.
More than anything that calls the attention of visitors is the energy that exists on the streets and between the old and somewhat decadent buildings. There is a new excitement in the air in OTR and all who go there are sure to experience it. As a language learner myself, I have always found that finding a neighborhood or scene that offers a variety of cultural and gastronomical options is an ideal place to practice the target language in a real life setting. With this being said, Findlay Market is perhaps the best place to do this in Cincy. Tucked away at 1801 Race Street, foodies and novices alike can find something to wet their appetite, and let’s be frank- food is the one thing that all people on earth understand. In my opinion, there is no better or more comfortable way to meet people, learn new vocabulary and utilize your English than eating! Check out Findlay Market on a Saturday morning, and I am sure you will have a new experience to share in your class on Monday!
Now, as our day draws to a close, we should probably go and get a drink over at Neon’s. Located at 208 East 12th Street, Neon’s is home to the best patio in the entire neighborhood. Always a good time, this hip bar is always busy and often features a local restaurant that serves food well into the wee small hours of the morning. Get there around 9 or 10 pm, get a comfortable spot at an open table, try one of the many local microbrews and talk with old friends and make a few new ones as well!
A few other options to make new friends and practice your English around Cincinnati are yoga classes, painting classes, open mic music and poetry nights, farmers markets (Hyde Park, Oakley for example) and of course just being a curious language learner that finds their own niche.