Library’s Language Café celebrates successful first year

Published: 05 Jul 2018 9:41am

Language is often a barrier for people from different backgrounds, but a Wagga Wagga City Library program is bringing the community closer together through the power of conversation.

There have been more than a thousand visits to the Language Café, which marks its first anniversary this week.

Library Manager Claire Campbell said with Wagga Wagga being a both a Refugee Welcome City and resettlement area, there is a growing Cultural and Linguistic Diverse (CALD) community that now makes up 6 per cent of the city’s population.

“The Wagga Wagga community has 99 language groups and through the Language Café we are assisting everyone from new arrivals to Australia and skilled migrants,” she said.

“The first Language Café in July 2017 had 13 people from nine language backgrounds with five volunteers. Over the past year there have been 1038 visits and we now have 40 volunteers.

“The participants have come from more than 30 countries of origin such as Syria, Irag, Iran, Korea, China, India, Japan, Sri Lanka, Burma, Spain, Afghanistan, Mexico, Pakistan, Indonesia and Columbia.

“Over the past year the Language Café shows the power libraries have to bring people together to foster lifelong learning and bring different parts of our community together.”

The library’s Language Café has evolved with even more CALD programming opportunities now available, such as Arabic language classes for children held on Saturdays; Tech Savvy Senior computer classes in Mandarin, Arabic and Dari and a Persian Language Book Club.

The library also has a Community Languages Collection of more than 2600 books from the State Library of NSW, featuring adult and children’s books in 14 different languages - Arabic, Chinese, Persian, Sinhalese, Vietnamese, Sri Lankan, Hindi, Tamil, Tagalog, Burmese, Urdu, Croatian, Serbian and Kurdish.

“Not only can our diverse community practice their English in real conversation, they can also stay connected with their own cultural identity by borrowing books and DVDs in their native language,” Ms Campbell said.

“If residents need another language, ask our staff and we will contact the State Library of NSW to see what’s available.”

The Language Café’s 90-minute drop-in sessions are held on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturday. The program will resumes after school holidays on Monday 23 July at 11am.