RIYADH: The best way to learn a language is to speak it, which is where the Riyadh Language Exchange, the first event of its kind in Saudi Arabia, comes into its own.
The Riyadh Language Exchange was established in 2017 by a group of young Saudis with a shared interest in traveling and exchanging languages and cultures.
“I was studying Spanish in Mar del Plata, Argentine and there was a language exchange gathering that helped me practice my Spanish,” said Mohammed Matham, co-founder of the Riyadh Language Exchange.
“When I came back to Riyadh, I couldn’t find a language exchange gathering to practice my Spanish, so my friends and I decided why not start the first language exchange gathering in Riyadh?”
The first gathering was held in December 2017 and included attendees who spoke Arabic, English and Spanish. Now the Kingdom’s first language exchange, which runs every month at the Art View Hotel, hosts more than 12 languages, including Hebrew, Persian, Greek and Korean.
The premise of the Riyadh Language Exchange is simple — visitors enter the event, pick up the flags of the languages they speak and the languages they wish to learn and practice. As they walk through the event, there are tables with signs showing the language spoken at each table.
“I am a translator in the diplomatic field, and I was made aware of the event years ago by my students when I was a Korean teacher at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University,” said Saudi/ Moroccan Sabrina Nasser, an attendee at the Riyadh Language Exchange.
“I come here because I love exchanging languages, being a multicultural myself, and I like to see other people interested in other languages and cultures,” she said.
Aygul from Uzbekistan, another visitor at the Riyadh Language Exchange, said: “As an expat myself, it is interesting and fun to meet people from different backgrounds and see how they are settling in Saudi Arabia, I find this gathering to be beneficial for me.”
Matham said that people communicate through language, and through language they share cultures, believes and values,“Here in Riyadh Language Exchange, we bring people speaking different languages and embracing different cultures a place to share their cultures and values.”
“When I meet Spanish people in Riyadh and they see a Saudi is speaking their language, they somehow get a sense of connection and feel at ease,” he said. “I believe this can not only extend your social circle but also help you exchange ideas and believes.”
“Under 2030 Vision, we are expecting more tourists now, and so learning a new language gives you access to the tourism sector, and a chance to welcome visitors from around the world,” Matham said.
He said that the Riyadh Language Exchange provided visitors with easy access to practice their target language with native speakers, build social connections with other learners and share their learning journey.