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The story of Lingo Links

The brilliant concept of language exchanges between locals and foreigners was conceived by Rhona Wetzka while running an English language school for immigrants in the 1980s. In order to help her students adapt and integrate, she tried to match them, language-wise, with South Africans keen to improve their foreign language skills. This she did through the Caxton Press, and within six months the language ‘matchmaking’ grew to 300 participants.

From 1985 Rhona transplanted her idea of ‘Language Swops’ to expats in Seoul, and when vernacular papers and TV there got wind of the scheme, language circles caught on throughout Korea, spreading spontaneously to Japan and Taiwan.

Nothing in SA’s short history compares with the centuries of violence and bitter enmity that used to exist between Japan and Korea. The amazing new friendships from Rhona’s circles made her dream of the same happening back home - of one day bridging the language and cultural divide between groups in SA.

In Sept 1997 Lingo Links SA was relaunched after an overwhelming response to an article in the Sandton Chronicle. Conversation circles quickly formed in all the main European languages as well as Afrikaans, Zulu and Xhosa. Five years later, thanks to an interview on Radio 702, Lingo Links was introduced in Pretoria.
Convenors of the first language circles - almost all students of Rhona’s language school. (1985)
Convenors of the first language circles - almost all students of Rhona’s language school. (1985)

The wedding of a ‘Korean/English Swop’ member. Rhona sits beside the bride. (1987)
The wedding of a ‘Korean/English Swop’ member. Rhona sits beside the bride. (1987)