E Komo Mai || Welcome

The virtual equivalent of the neighborhood coffee house, the online café is a place for people to gather for conversation and social interaction. In the Online Cafés project, language educators have worked together to design online cafés in which language learners in different locations can engage in intercultural exchange and language practice. Explore this site to find out more about online cafés for intercultural exchange.


The Online Cafés project is an adaptation of the Cultura model for intercultural exchange developed at MIT. Cultura offers ways for language teachers to access the “silent language of culture” (Edward T. Hall) by having their students engage in online intercultural exchanges with speakers of the target language. To learn about the background of the project, read an introduction to Cultura and explore the Cultura community site. The Cultura site also has a resource for creating your own exchange.

Summer Institute 2008

The University of Hawaii NFLRC launched the Online Cafés project with a Summer Institute in 2008. The Institute was designed to provide participating educators the tools they needed to design their own Café. Teams created online exchanges in Filipino, Japanese, Chinese for Business, and Samoan.

Summer Institute 2011

To expand on the successes of the 2008 Summer Institute, another Summer Institute was offered to incorporate the model of online café-type communities into new educational contexts. The model was used to facilitate high-level language proficiency training in Language Flagship programs in Chinese, Korean, and Russian by bringing together Flagship students at domestic sites and native-speaking counterparts abroad. The International Teacher Development Café for Samoan Educators facilitated the sharing of ideas, research, and materials among teachers of Samoan language across the Pacific in the U.S., Samoa, and New Zealand.  The Japanese Café, originally designed for business students, helped undergraduates learning Japanese in Hawaii learn about Japanese pragmatics by creating “advertisements” for native speakers.  The Vietnamese Study Abroad Café was designed to serve as a virtual support group and networking venue for Vietnamese Advanced Summer Institute (VASI) participants.  Each café will serve as a model for developing similar cafés in the future.

Watch the video: Online Cafés: Intercultural Learning Communities!

On to Goals & Considerations