Lesson from Dual Language Conversation Cafe

I recently did a conversation cafe with a group that need bilingual translation. Here’s a couple of insights I learnt during this experience.

  • Its always good to plan the session with a translator if its a language that you aren’t familiar with.
  • Language translation can also change the impact and intention of the question. So it is important to run through with others who are bilingual.
  • Decide if you’ll need to have the participants split between the languages. Thankfully, the session i ran did not need to segregate so distinctly. People organically organised themselves.
  • Prepare instructions in dual language
  • Be more conscious of the words you use to explain to the audience. The translator needs time and can’t translate some jokes well. Use short and clear instructions.

Have fun if you need to do a bilingual world cafe. The results will still amaze you if you spend time preparing, designing the questions and encourage the participants to speak from an open heart, mind & will.

I also encountered some resistance to the world cafe format like;

  • There should’t be the changing of groups. All 3 questions need to be tackled by the fixed groups. – This would severely defeat the purpose of trying to get diversity and new perspectives
  • It’s too chaotic and we don’t know if they will focus and talk what we want them to talk. – The world cafe thrives on chaos and in the end, the conversation and opportunity to share and hear other points of view themselves is what the participants enjoy the most.
  • The host should be fixed and pre-briefed. – Maybe in the more serious conversation and school like environment would this work. Most participants would like to have the autonomy to choose their host and some shy people would also find comfort in being responsible for something during the session.

I hope these pointers will anyone wanting to use world cafe as a conversation activity to focus, generate ideas and want some forward movement to occur.


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