The interview with Basia Gajzler

Basia: ESNer, project coordinator of COOL'ture, a person responsible for the Online Language Exchange

 

Marta: Hi Basia! Great to have you here, I'm very happy to have this opportunity to talk to you! Maybe we will start with the ESN side of your life? Mainly for those who haven't had the opportunity to meet you (yet)?

 

Basia: Hi! I am very pleased to have the opportunity to share! 

I joined ESN quite recently, in October to be precise. It was a fairly spontaneous decision - I wasn't entirely sure how ESN worked and if it was a place for me, but I really wanted to do something besides studying. I wanted to gain new skills but also have some fun. 

In the beginning, I became a mentor for Erasmo, and a few weeks later I filled out the section application form. After Fresher's Day, I started to be active in the Event group. I went to parties, helped organize them, met Erasmus people, and other members of the section. In time, I joined other working groups. And then it just continued like it often does - from a confused Newby to an ESN-er of the month and the coordinator of Cool'ture ... I don't even know when it all happened! 

Currently, in addition to Cool'ture, you can also meet me in PR, News, LEO, Event, and Sport ... Recently, I am also a Newby on the PR Committee of ESN Polska, where I am a part of a group responsible, among other things, for creating content for the ESN website. I can't imagine my student life without ESN any more!

 

M: Your story is just so nice! And maybe something more private now? What do you study, what do you do, when you have some free time? 

 

B: I study applied linguistics at the Faculty of Modern Languages at the Adam Mickiewicz University. I am currently in my third year and eagerly anticipating my defence (hopefully not online).

Last year I went on an Erasmus. I spent two semesters at a university in Germany, where I met a lot of people from all around the globe and had the opportunity to improve my German. And although there was no local ESN section in my city, it was definitely a great adventure that will stay with me forever.

Privately, I am a hopeless romantic, cat lover, complete bookworm, and a language enthusiast. I love travelling, getting lost in big cities and meeting new people. If you ever happen to meet me on a tram, I'll definitely be devouring yet another book. You also run the risk of me trying to talk to you in Polish, English, German and Italian, all at the same time. I can discuss series and books endlessly, and I know some episodes of Friends's and Games of Thrones practically by heart. 

 

M: I think it’s easy to find somebody to talk to here. So maybe we can get to the Tandem now. What is it and how did it start? How did you get the idea?

 

B: A language tandem is a form of a language exchange. It is about talking to another person in a foreign language you are learning and helping them to learn the language you know. This is a great way to improve your language skills and learn a language, how it is spoken, often different from the one we find in the textbooks or the language courses. The conversation can take place live or online using social media. Everything goes. 

As a language lover, I have been taking part in tandems for many years and I think this is a great way of language learning. Tandem first of all taught me to not care about making mistakes, while speaking.  I keep in touch with my close friend from Italy. She's learning German and I Italian. We chat in German and Italian. When both languages fail us, we switch to English. We do not worry about mistakes and at the same time correct each other.

My inspiration to create Online Language Exchange was a café in Jeżyce, which in recent years had been organizing weekly discussions in English. In the first year of study, it was my weekly escape from everyday life. When I returned from Erasmus, it turned out that the discussions were no longer taking place. And then it occurred to me that we could organize a similar event as ESN.

Initially, I wanted to organize a language tandem in Poznan in a cosy café. A different language was to reign at each table. Everyone was to receive a plaque with their native language and the languages they learn. Plus coffee, tea and integration. (no alcohol? Weird)

Of course, this idea could not come into fruition due to the quarantine (but who knows, maybe this idea will be an inspiration for my Cool’ture successor?). However, I decided not to give up and moved this event to the internet, but with a slightly changed premise. I divided the project into three stages. First, we collected applications. Then, based on the applications’ data, I paired the people up. In addition, we've created a Discord channel where anyone can come in and talk to other people in any language.

The icing on the cake was the language newsletter, which we create together with the other ESNers in five language versions. Each edition of the newsletter consists of language tips and a language challenge, where you can always find five questions for a given subject. In the future, the newsletter will also go up on our website so that everyone can have access to these materials. 

 

M: It is a pity that Tandem could not be organized live because I am sure it would have been a lot of fun, but as you say - maybe next year! As for the Newsletter, it's true, we do it in five different languages, and we are all only lowly ESNers. What languages are these and who are the people hiding behind the Newsletter?

 

B: The newsletter is created in five languages. We write the text in English and then translate it into Polish, German, Spanish and Russian. Two newsletters have been created so far, we are currently working on the third edition. 

Our newsletter team, of course, consists of people from ESN, namely Marta, Lena, Julia, Magda, Staś, Asia, Igor, Karolina and me. We are a very nice and well-coordinated team and together we create something very cool!

Julia, Lena and Marta watch over the English version of the text. Then Staś or Magda check if everything is okay. And then we translate the content into the other languages.

The Polish version is created by Lena or Marta. In the meantime, Karolina and Lena are translating the text into Spanish. At the same time, Asia deals with the Russian version, which she later sends to Igor for proofreading. And I and Julia translate the newsletter into German. Here, Marta is responsible for proofreading. 

Of course, I set the deadlines. I supervise everything, send the Newsletter for translation, and deal with the final proofreading of the Polish, English and German versions. When the texts are ready, I spruce them up, make them into neat pdf files and then send them by email to all participants of the tandem. 

As you can see, this is a fairly complex process that requires the involvement of the entire team. And although they are not long texts, it takes us about two weeks to create each edition. But I think our work is still worthwhile - I receive a lot of messages from tandem participants with thanks or asking when can they expect the next edition of the newsletter. In addition, our newsletter will soon appear on our website, so that everyone can have access to these materials! 


 

M: Thank you for such comprehensive answers! Would you like to add anything else? 

 

B: I think it's a good time to say some "thank you"’s. I would like to thank everyone who believed in this project and motivated me, as well as those who got involved or took part in it.

First of all, thank you to my newsletter team: Marta, Julia, Karolina, Lena, Magda, Asia, Stas and Igor. Without you, we wouldn't be able to create something so cool and in five languages no less! 

Thank you for all the words of support from other ESNers and tandem participants. I got a lot of private feedback, which was extremely motivating and kept me going. 

I hope that our language tandem, although exclusively online, was a nice event and a chance to meet new people and improve your language skills. For me, the organization of the tandem was certainly quite an adventure and a chance to develop on various levels. Nearly 200 people took part in the project, which is still hard for me to believe! I am very happy that this little project turned into a big event that involved so many people from different parts of the world.

 

M: Thank you very much and I wish you to always stay as energetic, although I know that it isn’t a problem for you!

 

 
 
The interview by
 
 
 
Translation