Principles for running sayBabel workshops:

  1. Relaxed, warm and inclusive atmosphere

The sayBabel workshop is not a lecture or a serious meeting, it is rather an encounter of friends who want to develop together. For a relaxed, warm and inclusive atmosphere:

  • shorten the distance between the leader and the participants, e.g. by presenting basic information about yourself, interesting facts, rather than a professional CV (unless the participants have such a need), mentioning your own language learning difficulties, etc.;
  • arranging the chairs in the room – place them in a circle (or a semicircle if you will be using a projector or a whiteboard) so that people can see each other;
  • be open, inclusive, supportive, patient, kind and smiling and encourage the same attitude among participants, emphasizing that it is a common call to create an inclusive atmosphere in which everyone can feel at ease;
  • encourage individuals not to judge others and to support each other;
  • at the very first meeting, introduce (and briefly remind in the next ones) basic sayBabel rules or agree with the group on your own rules that will allow participants to feel safe.
  1. Active participation of the participants

SayBabel workshops are based on non-formal education methods and consist mainly of interactive exercises and group work, encouraging participants to actively participate and overcome the language barrier. Avoid long lectures by opting for more dynamic forms.

Each workshop and each edition of sayBabel are designed to gradually increase the degree of difficulty. We start with a warm-up, which allows individuals to safely engage with the foreign language and begin to feel more comfortable in the group before moving on to the next levels. Likewise, each edition starts with easier topics, generally ending with activities that require participants to present something to the group in English.

Our approach is to divide sayBabel workshops into editions. Each edition means 3 workshops around the same topic (for example Responsible Consumption, Travel as metaphor of life, etc), so participants can deepen their understanding and broaden their vocabulary in a more complex, holistic way. Yet, workshops are self-standing and designed in such a way that each participant can take part in all of them or just pick one or two depending on their will and possibilities.

  1. Gradual increase in commitment

In the beginning, some of the participants may feel insecure when speaking a foreign language, especially in a group of unfamiliar people. Don’t force people who are not ready to actively express themselves in front of the whole group, rather propose slowly increasing the involvement, at an individual pace.

Examples of waxing levels of commitment:

  • the person comes to the workshop, mainly focusing on listening to and understanding what is happening
  • the person begins to speak more, mainly when performing exercises in pairs and small groups
  • the person begins to express himself / herself in the group, e.g. by presenting the work of their small group
  • the person starts to co-lead part of the workshop, e.g. by proposing and conducting a warm-up exercise
  • the person co-runs the entire sayBabel workshop, receiving support and feedback from the leader
  • the person conducts workshops alternately with the leader or sets up their own sayBabel group

Of course, increasing involvement may take place in a different way and doesn’t have to end with setting up a group or even co-running a workshop. However, it is worth having such an option at the back of your head and supporting people who may be ready for the next challenge.

  1. Focus on solutions

Although during workshops, when discussing issues related to the actual social and environmental situation, we may point to existing problems, an important element is a conversation about what each and every one of us can do in relation to a given challenge. Participants should leave the meeting with hope, motivation to change and ideas on what change they can introduce in their own lives.

  1. Variety of forms

Each workshop consists of a variety of forms that will allow you to respond to the diverse needs of people with different learning styles. In addition, each workshop should include elements related to speaking, listening, but also reading or writing in English (it is worth taking care of the balance also within a given edition). During the workshops, we use non-formal education methods, they have nothing to do with the way a language is taught at school.

  1. Group diversity

Diversity is the keyword! The more diverse the group, the greater the chance of breaking stereotypes, going beyond our own social bubble, and seeing the world from a different perspective. The presence of people who don’t speak Polish (e.g. migrants) is also very important, as it motivates participants not to switch to Polish and to try and communicate in English despite the language barrier. It also creates a more authentic use-case situation, allows participants to become familiar with various accents, etc. Diversity should refer not only to origin, but also to gender, age, language level, (dis)ability, etc.

  1. Accessibility

sayBabel workshops should be accessible to as many people as possible, which may mean, for example, considering a venue accessible to people on wheelchairs, adapting materials or providing assistance for the visually impaired, etc. Accessibility also means being able to talk to the leader before the workshop about obstacles that may make it difficult or impossible for a person to participate in the meeting, and to think together if and how to respond to them. The availability of the leader before the workshops (e.g. by phone or e-mail) can also help people who are afraid to join, e.g. due to their language level, introversion, etc. Conversation with the leader about what the workshop looks like, what is the expected level of language etc, can help dispel these doubts.

Another form of accessibility is to make sayBabel workshops available for everybody regardless of their financial situation. We run sayBabel workshops for free (sometimes with the support of grants) or according to the “Pay as you like” idea – participants decide themselves how much they contribute financially, depending on their satisfaction and financial possibilities.

  1. Breaking the language barrier

Our goal is to break the speaking barrier, not necessarily to reach an absolutely perfect use of the language. That’s why we invite to:

  • Don’t correct mistakes on a regular basis, especially mistakes of a specific person. However, you can write them down and summarize at the end of the workshop without mentioning who made the mistake.
  • Appreciate and celebrate every utterance and break of the barrier, no matter how little.
  • Pay attention to speaking slowly and clearly, repeating the instructions if necessary, choosing words appropriate to the level of the participants, using gestures, facial expressions, props – so that people build a belief that they are able to understand and communicate in a given language.
  • Stick to English and don’t switch to Polish (although if participants support each other in understanding, for example, specific instructions, you can allow them to do so, make sure that when working in groups they speak in English though).
  1. Additional materials

Participants receive a list of additional materials (listed at the end of each scenario) that will allow them to delve into the topic of the workshop on their own. After some workshops, especially those that involve long text reads, participants also receive a glossary with words used in the text/during the workshop, related to the topic of the meeting.

  1. Evaluation

sayBabel workshops should be tailored to the needs of a given group as much as possible, the leader adjusts the scenario to specific participants. The workshop ends with a short but specific summary and evaluation that will allow to improve the leader’s work on an ongoing basis. At the end of each edition (a series of three workshops), it is worth carrying out a longer evaluation, also probing, for example, what topics participants would like to raise in the following meetings, to what extent and how they would like to be involved in leading, etc.