If I was teaching a speaking class right now, I would definitely turn making a call to The Swedish Number into a speaking assignment.
The Swedish Number is an initiative of the Swedish Tourism Board, which is a phone number which “connects callers to a switchboard and then, wherever in the world they are, to “a random Swede, somewhere in Sweden.”
There are so many directions you could take an assignment based around The Swedish Number.
- For a low-level English language learner, especially one in an EFL environment, the call would simply serve as great interactive speaking practice. They could work off a script or prompt if needed, and prepare and practice strategies for asking for clarification or repetition, asking the interlocutor to slow down, etc.
- If a student was studying vocabulary or other language from a particular topic area, academic discipline, or hobby or area of interest, they could call the number and try to pursue a conversation in that direction. The direction the conversation took, though, would depend on the random Swede who picked up the phone.
- If a student was planning to travel, study or do business with Sweden, then it would be a no-brainer to have them call. Bonus points for asking the random Swede about language issues, how widespread English use is, some rudimentary phrases in Swedish, etc.
- If my student was studying English for business in order to work on an international team, was studying English for academic purposes to be able to present and publish at international conferences, I might bring up the concept of English as a Lingua Franca. I’d explain what it is and walk about some of the features, maybe giving them a reading on it, and then ask them to call the Swedish Number and talk with the person as an applied exercise in ELF.
- Assuming that the random Swede who answers the phone is going to have a good level of proficiency in English, then I would ask students to call and talk to the random Swede about their language learning strategies, experiences and tips.
- If I were playing around with language learning identities in class, I would encourage my students to call and “try out” some different personalities in English with the random Swede who answers.
Any more ideas? This number will only be working for a limited time, something like 135 more days, so get on it!