From left, Ariosto Hernández, from Mexico City; Lee Mathis, of Minnetonka; and Sajjad Fouladvand, from Iran, converse in Spanish and English at Linguistico on Sunday.

Linguistico, a language exchange group that meets at Grand Rounds Brewing Company on Sundays, provides more than just a place for people to come together and practice language.

It also helps community members connect with people they otherwise would never have met, which is what draws Lee Mathis from his home in Minnetonka down to Rochester every Sunday.

One connection Mathis has made is with Sajjad Fouladvand, from Iran, who comes to the language event to practice his English and learn about America.

Fouladvand, a computer science doctoral candidate at the University of Kentucky, helped Mathis get started learning the computer programing language Python, and Mathis has been teaching Fouladvand about Midwest culture.

Fouladvand is appreciative of the event, because while learning English can be challenging for him, learning about American culture has been more difficult.

“My culture is totally different,” Fouladvand said.

For Mathis, the event is worth the 90-minute drive because of the people he gets to meet. Crossing a language barrier allows him to “converse like regular people” and form deeper connections with people he may never had been able to communicate with.

Linguistico is a free casual social gathering held every Sunday from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m., where community members can meet new people and practice Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, German and English.

The event was created by Amber Galbreath and Nick Molina in the spring of 2018. Galbreath, who grew up in Rochester, lived in Latin America for seven years, and when she came home she didn’t want her Spanish and Portuguese to become rusty.

“I have always known that Rochester has a very diverse population, and one thing I thought it was lacking was a way for me to practice my language skills,” Galbreath said.

Galbreath modeled Linguistico on the language exchange events she attended in Colombia and Brazil.

“It’s an exchange of language, but it is also an exchange of culture as well, and a social opportunity,” she said.

The event attracts people who have language skills and are just visiting Rochester, such as Fouladvand, who is in Rochester for an internship at Mayo Clinic. Fouladvand said that the event has helped him make friends.

Mathis hopes that the connections visitors make at Linguistico will being them back to the region.

In the group of 12 to 15 people that show up each week, there is a wide range of language abilities.

“We have all levels,” Galbreath said. She has seen people come to the group who plan on traveling or studying abroad in regions that speak another language and want to see if they can hold a conversation.

The group sometimes consists of two to three people who are very comfortable with another language besides English, but Galbreath also encourages those who don’t feel comfortable holding a conversation in a foreign language to attend the event.

“If you don’t know anything and you are still interested in attending, there is no pressure to talk or converse,” Galbreath said. She emphasized that the event is very casual and participants don’t have to stay the entire time.

“I like the idea of having something that’s downtown and in an atmosphere that you can be a little bit social, you can have a drink, you can order food,” Galbreath said.

The event is open to all ages, and Galbreath would like to see more younger people who are interested in practicing another language or languages.

“We do have a couple of people who are trying to improve their English,” Galbreath said, “and those people are always welcome as well.”

The addition of those who speak a language other than English who can teach others their native language while learning English from others truly makes the event a language exchange.

While the event does not have an official website, event info is listed on many online event calendars. Some sites list the event as requiring an RSVP. Galbreath said that an RSVP is not required to attend.

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