Issue 233 - Free conversations

rat
Find out more about
Net Languages courses
Basic

Vocabulary: Languages

Look and listen.

 

Can you remember? Choose the correct option.

 

The news story

Read and listen to the news story.

Free conversations

If you go to the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona, maybe you will see a young Catalan giving free conversation to people.

A couple of times a week, 25-year-old Adrià Ballester sits in a chair with a sign that says “free conversations”.

Adrià can speak to people in Spanish, Catalan, English, Italian or Portuguese. He says that most of the people who speak to him are tourists.

On a normal day Mr Ballester talks to five or six people. “They tell me stories. The other day I talked to a 70-year-old woman from ex-Yugoslavia. She told me about the wars she has lived through. Another day, a man talked for two minutes without stopping. He was Finnish, so I understood nothing,” Adrià said with a smile.

Why does he do it? “Our lives are controlled by technology and we are becoming like robots,” Ballester explains. He hopes his free conversations will help people connect and to think about their life. “So far, nobody has used their mobile while talking to me,” he said.

Scientists agree with Adrià Ballester. Humans are social animals and we need to connect with other people. Studies from Chicago and London show that we feel happier when we speak to strangers in the street, in shops or on public transport.

Find out more about
Net Languages courses
Intermediate

Vocabulary: Synonyms of talk

Choose the best option.

The news story

Read and listen to the news story.

Free conversations

If you go to the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona, maybe you will see a young Catalan offering free conversation to passers-by.

Several times a week, 25-year-old Adrià Ballester sets up his camping chairs and handwritten sign saying “free conversations” and waits for people to come and talk to him.

Adrià, who speaks English, Italian and Portuguese – as well as Spanish and Catalan, says that most of the people who stop are tourists. “I tried setting up in residential areas, but local people are too busy to sit down and chat. They are usually rushing from one place to another,” he explained.

On a typical day Mr Ballester talks to five or six people. “They tell me stories. The other day I had a 70-year-old woman from ex-Yugoslavia. She told me about the wars she has lived through. Another time, a man sat down and talked for two minutes without stopping. He was Finnish, so I understood nothing,” Adrià said with a smile.

Why does he do it? “We are all controlled by technology, which is dehumanising us,” explains Ballester. He hopes his free conversations with strangers will help people to pause and reflect for a few moments and live in the here and now. “So far, nobody has pulled out their mobile while talking to me,” he added.

A recent study carried out in Chicago and London has shown that speaking to strangers makes us happy. Most participants in the study expected that talking to strangers would make them both feel uncomfortable. In fact, the study showed that most people were happy to chat and felt it was a positive experience.

Humans are social animals and they are happiest when they are connected to other people. Feeling lonely and isolated can cause stress and health problems.

Find out more about
Net Languages courses
Advanced

Grammar: Prefixes de, dis and un

Choose the correct option.

The news story

Read and listen to the news story.

Free conversations

If you happen to be near the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona, you might spot a young Catalan offering free conversation to passers-by.

Several times a week, 25-year-old Adrià Ballester, blogger and activist, sets up his camping chairs and handwritten sign advertising “free conversations” and waits for custom.

Adrià, who can converse in English, Italian and Portuguese – aside from Spanish and Catalan, says that most of his conversation partners are tourists. “I tried setting up in residential areas, but I soon realised that local people are too busy to sit down for a chat. They are usually rushing to get somewhere,” he explained.

On an average day Mr Ballester will talk to five or six people. “They tell me stories. The other day I had a 70-year-old woman from ex-Yugoslavia who told me about the wars she has lived through. Another time, a man sat down and talked for two minutes without stopping. He was Finnish, so I understood nothing,” Adrià said with a smile.

Why does he do it? “We live in a world dominated by technology, which is dehumanising us,” explains Ballester. By offering to talk to strangers he hopes to provide people with the opportunity to pause and reflect for a few moments and live in the here and now. “So far, nobody has pulled out their mobile while talking to me,” he added.

Adrià might not be changing the world with his free conversations, but a recent study carried out in Chicago and London has shown that speaking to strangers has surprising benefits. Most participants in the study expected that reaching out to strangers would make them both feel uncomfortable. In fact, the study showed that most people were happy to chat and were left with a positive feeling after the encounter.

Humans are social animals and are happiest when they are connected to others. Feeling lonely and isolated can lead to stress and health problems.

Interview: listen to more about the topic

Think about your answers to the following questions. Then listen to somebody answering the same questions. Were your answers similar?

Find out more about
Net Languages courses