Written by Caroline Averitt | Staff Writer
The department of world languages and cultures hosts Friday Charlas (Chats) at Story Coffeehouse every week to provide a space for students and members of the community to practice speaking Spanish.
In 2020, the department of world languages and cultures canceled all of its conversation tables due to the pandemic. Stephanie Bates, a Spanish instructor at Arkansas State University, said the department created Friday Charlas to bring that opportunity back for students.
“It’s a community conversation table for anyone who’s looking to learn Spanish. So, we have students that come from our classes– all levels, elementary to advanced– and we also welcome anyone from the community who’s learning or would like to learn,” Bates said.
Brooklynn Wolfe, a junior marketing major from Batesville, helped connect Bates with the owners of Story Coffeehouse. Wolfe works at Story as a barista.
Wolfe said one of the co-owners of Story, Bethany Davis, was looking for more events to host at Story back in December.
“Story did something called Story Gives Back where 7% of our sales for the whole month of December went to seven nonprofits that our baristas picked out,” Davis said.
During December, Story donated to El Centro Hispano, the Hispanic center in Jonesboro. Along with Story, El Centro Hispano sponsors the conversation table.
Wolfe said as a member of Bates’ Spanish class, she knew the department was looking for a space to host a conversation table. So, she put Bates in contact with Davis, who then coordinated with El Centro Hispano.
Bates said students feel more comfortable at Story than where their conversation table used to be held. Before 2020, the department of world languages and cultures hosted “Spanish at the Pub” at Cregeen’s Irish Pub.
“One of the things students had said was some of them would be more likely to come to a coffee shop or something than a pub, especially like freshmen who aren’t going to be drinking,” Bates said.
Davis said Story likes hosting Friday Charlas, as well as many other events.
“We love hosting events because we love supporting this community. Jonesboro’s growing and we want to be able to provide a safe space for people to connect and we just want to cultivate community and connection,” Davis said.
Wolfe said she hopes to get a minor in Spanish. She said she has seen Friday Charlas in action from behind the counter, but also participated at the table once.
“I knew that it would be good for me to practice speaking with others. So, it was a little intimidating but it was also helpful to get some practice,” Wolfe said.
In addition to conversation, sometimes participants play games or do various activities. Bates said she wants it to be a fun place where everyone feels welcome, “We’re just hoping that it kind of catches on and more people join us.”
Story hosts Friday Charlas every Friday from 1-2 p.m. Students and members of the community who wish to practice Spanish can attend, regardless of skill level.
“You really can start from numero uno,” Bates said.
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