This summer we decided to inject some authentic real-life experience into our regular intensive English course. Since the third session of TAKE FIVE coincided with our course, the students left the classroom for a night and joined the English club, where they mingled with the crowd and had a great time. Meanwhile, we marked another long-awaited record of 22 attendees.
The summer season is in full swing: last night we welcomed 13 lovely people in the backmost room of CDFŰ. Although we promised to bring you all up above the surface for the summer to catch some sunlight, we have encountered unforeseen difficulties, which eventually drew us back to our headquarters for at least two occasions.
Yesterday’s session revolved around the themes of summertime and festivals. We discussed how we prefer to spend our summer, and during the game section we even came up with crazy, or, as we call it, ‘wacky’ festival program ideas before we concluded the night with a game of Scattergories. If you have no plans for August yet, here’s our exhaustive list of offers:
- Chocolate Festival
- Sleeping Festival
- Impossible Festival
- Waiting for Time travelers to come back Festival (WTF)
- Tram and Metro Replacement Festival
About a year ago we felt that our format needed a few adjustments to make newcomers or shier guests feel more comfortable. We extended our introductory section with ice-breaker bits that are always done in pairs, allowing everybody to take it slow instead of being thrown in at the deep end. We also spiced up the section in which we used to pick one random topic for the night. We now offer three alternatives, but the attendees have to vote on enigmatic, two-word titles, without knowing exactly what the topics are about. The organizers max out their cheekiness by altering the two-word titles now and then to make unpopular topics seem more appealing.
Last night’s voting turned into a comedy show again when the title “repair services” received only one vote. Interestingly, “plastic bags” was not too popular either, even though it has been quite a hot issue recently. The winner was “chat carriages”:
“UK public transport companies decided to help their passengers connect during a one-day experiment. They introduced “chat carriages” where people could find conversation starter cards to try and get strangers to talk with each other while they were travelling.”
“We’re gonna go on a fifteen minutes break, but before that…” This is the point when we make our announcements for the rest of the day or the near future. This time we had quite a few things to share with the audience. First off, we awarded two more people with the Recurring Member Badge. One of the recipients was sixteen-year-old Anna, who, in the fall of 2018, quite swiftly became the highlight of our club with her fiery teenage presence and astonishingly sophisticated sense of humor.
Besides introducing the badge system, we will be facing another major change as of September: after eight years, the participation fee will be raised to 500 HUF, and it will no longer be optional. To favor our loyal attendees, there will be a premium membership plan, too, with a list of enticing privileges. Stay tuned until the end of this season for more information.
The upcoming session (July 25th) is going to be extraordinary. Two of the organizers will be teaching at an English course which overlaps with the TAKE FIVE meeting, so we have decided to do a crossover and bring the students along next time.
Click here to see our latest Facebook event.
“You have no more than ninety seconds to summarize your group’s discussion.” This is one of the phrases I have uttered at least a hundred times over the years. How many exactly? My gosh, the idea of this club popped out of my head in the summer of 2011. When we first sat down in the empty room of the art gallery seven years ago, I had no vision of 15-20 member groups filling up a bar room with their voices every second week. Today, if we walk down to CDFŰ, we have our flyers all over the place, and we are considered a top priority event there. A lot of people have at least heard about us. Every season somebody walks in saying: a friend of mine recommended this club to me. Not to mention the ones who simply googled ‘English club Budapest’, and they somehow ended up here.
TAKE FIVE is a dream come true – one we did not even know we had. Nevertheless, this long road has its bumps and cracks too.
In January we were compelled to assemble a crisis team to unravel the reasons behind the ridiculously low attendance. I would say it was the first time we truly hit rock bottom. In such moments in our lives, it is good to have a childhood friend around. Besides a number of minor changes we agreed to make, Zoli – who has been a faithful partner in crime since kindergarten – “raised his hand” and verbalized the very essence of our existence. His words soon became our slogan, which we had never actually had before: come for the language, stay for the company.
This moment served as a sort of turning point to me (with the string and brass sections intensifying behind my back), since throughout these years I have kept focusing on English, and hardly ever stopped for a minute to contemplate how significant the rest is. As of now I have no doubts: TAKE FIVE is primarily a social event, and as a side project we provide a place for people to practice the language.
Especially during the last two years we have begun to broaden our horizons or, shall we say, expand our comfort zone and take on new ventures. In 2016 we organized two exclusive sessions for two groups of high school students, and in the winter of 2017 we announced our first Christmas charity campaign. In the meantime, our community is becoming more and more colorful by the month. We are opening up new channels in two particular directions. First off, a remarkable number of teenagers have joined us recently, with the youngest having been 13 years old.
What is more, we are proud to have welcomed three people with autism in the past two years. This is not the right time to discuss in detail what this extraordinary condition is about. It is enough to say that if they leave this place satisfied and they are ready to come back for a second time, that is the most valuable feedback we could ever possibly receive.
It is also life-changing to witness how shy and/or introverted people come to the club, and eventually spread their wings slowly but surely. I as a teenager would have been scared to death if I had been asked to talk in front of complete strangers. This is not the case with 16-year-old Anna who, quite similarly to my 14-year-old student Ambrus, sprang to her feet and took one of the hot seats to present a summary of her group’s discussion. In the above photo, two proud teachers are looking back at her, one of them being her form teacher and my colleague at the school, Ildi. Let us pause for a second to celebrate: it was the very first time in the history of the club for a student and their form teacher to appear together.
As far as our future is concerned, we have our evil plans, and not all of them are yet to be revealed. One thing we are willing to share with you: at the end of this season we will begin to award badges to our recurring members, as a way of expressing our gratitude for their loyalty. For starters, once you have attended the 10th session, you become eligible for our silver-blue badge, and your name will appear on our site. (If you so desire, of course.) In case you have been a hardcore member in the past years, you will receive a special golden-red badge. All badges will be awarded retrospectively too.
Over the course of seven years we have built up something amazing, which we could not have done without your support. We have our own format for the sessions, we have rituals, we have inside jokes, we have online forums, we have a reputation, but most importantly: we have a lovely and accepting community of enthusiastic people who either join us to brush up on their English, or join us to socialize, to make new friends. We can only hope that most of you come for both.
The TAKE FIVE club has witnessed an exceptionally low attendance for as long as one year, but this tendency seems to be turning around now. Last Thursday, on April 12, no less than twenty people decided to spend a pleasant evening with us, and we are more than grateful for that. Among the old dogs we spotted quite a number of new members who are likely to mark the beginning of a prospective shift in our target audience. With the spring season in full swing, more and more of our students have been joining the sessions. The youngest member is an extraordinary 12-year-old gentleman who has the courage to speak in front of a crowd whenever it comes to games or the 90-second talk. The stunning diversity of the group have truly shaken (not stirred) up the life of the club.
After a long brainstorming period in winter, we introduced a few changes in an attempt to fine-tune our format, and thus make it more inviting to all of our guests. As a starting point, we have extended the intro section so that newcomers have an opportunity to get to know the others and become more comfortable. We throw in a simple ice-breaker, preferably in pairs, to get the ball rolling. Besides the ice-breakers, we also agreed that once we form small groups for the upcoming discussion, people need time for some catching up and getting in the mood. As a cherry on top, we now have an entertaining and interactive way of selecting the topic of the day. If you join us next time, you can see it for yourself!
After introducing ourselves, we formed groups of three to play an amusing get-to-know-you game. There were three questions: What is your favorite food? What is your dream job? Where would you go if you could go anywhere? However, it was not you who had to answer, but your partners had to make guesses before you revealed the truth. The buzz of a crowd quickly overwhelmed the room while we struggled with sorting out the colored cards to assign the five small groups. The winner topic for the night was titled “A series of series”, and it raised questions about the necessity of making TV series out of books:
“…there are more and more series coming out every year. One of the latest was the announcement of a Lord of the Rings series. Do you think series can be a good way of adapting books (because they are longer than films, you can have all the details of a book)?“
The rest of the night, that is, the game section took an unexpected turn. Since covering significant current issues has always been top priority for us, we had planned to bring up the elections in a way that it would not go against our own guidelines. We were not at all curious about who favored which political party. Instead, we intended to cover this topic with two hilarious games. First, as a warmer, the groups were asked to come up with whacky ways to vote, as part of the well-known “whacky inventions” series. The second and last game required even more creativity with a grain of acting on top: each group had to elect a candidate who would replace Zsombor as founder and organizer, and write a campaign speech to be presented by the candidate on the podium.
The breath-taking fun should not stop here. We will celebrate the arrival of our fresh members with a brand new board game from England called Scattergories. We hope you will enjoy playing it just as much as playing Taboo. In case you are interested in the upcoming session, check out the latest event on our Facebook page. You can also find the full photo album of last week’s meeting there.
Three Americans walk into an English club… and this is not a joke! One of our most loyal native speaker visitor, Sara, has been stunningly eager to advertise the club ever since she first joined us. About a year ago she rushed back to her homeland after hearing Balázs using his late-night Scottish accent, but now she’s back and fully recovered. (The rest of the organizers are on the mend.) Sara has made our heart melt with one of her Facebook posts in which she explains how difficult it must be for anyone without a great support system to immigrate to Hungary. “TAKE FIVE – English Language Club has been my safety net for sanity when things seem rough…” These kind and reassuring words could be considered a present for our 6th birthday.
6:17 pm. The spotlight is gone forever, and there’s no way to replace the bulb. Only a spherical lampshade on the ceiling is scattering some light around the club room while half a dozen of lamps are timidly glowing in the background as moral support. We should already be sitting around the table introducing ourselves, but probably thanks to the unexpected deluge raging out on the streets, only a few people are wandering around bemused. What we have in common with TV series: every season begins with the appearance of interesting new characters. I am more than excited to welcome three newcomers. I’m used to hearing “oh, my friend told me about the club” from new visitors, so my heart skips a beat when Józsi tells me he just googled “English club Budapest”.
“The crowd is overwhelming,” said I to greet tonight’s guests. Balázs kindly encourages me to drop the irony. He is right.
What thoughts or feelings does fall/autumn evoke in you? We agreed this would make a good introductory question for today. The room is soon filled with laughter as most people associate this season with fairly depressive thoughts. The dramatic effect could be boosted with the pouring rain… if the place had any windows. I can’t seem to smother the urge to share my favorite quote from David Letterman: “Fall is my favorite season in Los Angeles, watching the birds change color and fall from the trees.” A heartfelt giggle erupts from four people as a way of showing empathy towards the aspiring club organizer.
We have new cards for forming groups. Balázs very wisely pointed out that orange cards with only numbers on them are easy to mix up. Therefore, he created cards of different colors. We had to polish our negotiation skills to find the golden mean between practicality and enthusiasm. His original plan was to put numbers on the colored cards in order to provide a “multi-sensory experience” for the people. I suggested we should not get carried away with such luxurious dreams. Colors will be just enough. Era helps us out by joining a two-member group in one of the corners. Today’s topic is “ALL BY OURSELVES?”, an experimental topic about extraterrestrial life. We decided to try topics that rely more on our imagination than our up-to-dateness on current issues.
Balázs and I are standing at the bar. The door opens and she walks in: a lady with ginger hair and glasses. She’s no stranger, she’s our lovely colleague with whom we joined forces to organize a six-day English course a month ago. I’m wondering if she’ll spot the outline of Mark Hamilton’s dead body on the club room floor – a prop that served as an important part of our murder mystery game for the English course.
Before we go on a fifteen minute break, we announce the launch of an unprecedented TAKE FIVE contest. Whoever attends at least four sessions or sends us a topic during the fall season will be put on the list of possible winners. In the end, we are going to pick a random person who wins a TAKE FIVE T-shirt. (Something I didn’t manage to find after having washed all of my clothes.)
7:55 pm. Let the fun begin! Just to get the ball rolling, we bring back our “whacky invention” game, but this time the groups have to invent a piece of equipment that helps defend ourselves against hurricanes. To all language learners’ delight (that is, all of the non-natives), by this time there are three Americans sitting in the room. What an ironic coincidence that we are dealing with hurricanes. The selected speakers from each group take the hot seat on the podium to present their inventions. They never fail to amaze me with their creativity and exceptional sense of humor. One of the things is a ukulele which, when being played, generates a protective bubble around itself.
For the last 45 minutes we put on a storytelling show – a kind of thing we usually have mixed feelings about. The concept of one person speaking while an audience is listening does not necessarily harmonize with the concept of a conversation club. Nonetheless, this one seems to work out well as we have spiced it up with an interactive feature. The game is the following: one person takes the hot seat and begins to share a memorable summer story with the audience. At random moments, Balázs rings the bell and the storyteller freezes. Anyone from the audience can guess how the story is going to continue. We can hardly breathe as born stand-up comedian Jake presents his story of a weird girl chasing him with her love. It seems that Americans are here to bring our talk shows up to standard.
9:00 pm sharp. Let’s give a big hand to Jake! The podium is empty now. I glance at my phone and call it a day. We always take pride in being so precise. I thank them all for being here tonight, concluding my brief monologue with a modest, almost undetectable bow. Meanwhile, I’m very awkwardly trying to avoid making eye contact with them.
Where are we heading? I came to realize a while ago that running an English club requires an incredible degree of innovation and creativity. If we set out to be up-to-date with our topics, and we respond to several events as they are happening in the world, it is then inevitable that we constantly redefine ourselves as time passes. After six years of persistent (and at times painstaking) work, we have now decided to raise the club to a whole new level. From this season on, TAKE FIVE is diving headfirst into the world of charity. Not only do we want to donate money to certain organizations, but we also plan to appear at carefully selected institutes with special tailor-made club sessions.
If everything goes according to plan, the first such institute will be the Tüskevár school where I currently work. It would be a great honor to bring an extraordinary TAKE FIVE session to the school at the beginning of February.
Written by Zsombor