Story by Emily Tyler
A common sight on many college campuses is language houses, especially for colleges and universities who boast of cultural diversity. A typical language house can consist of anywhere from five or more students who are dedicated to enhancing their abilities in a particular language. Together, they practice speaking and listening to a language in a conversational manner as opposed to the purely academic style many students are taught through school-related programs.
In the early 2000s, Drake’s language program shifted to center around the conversational aspect of language in lieu of a stronger focus on the reading and writing aspects. While all spectrums of a language are important, there is only so much that can be learned in class.
Shanna McCormack, a first-year at Drake studying French, supports the idea of a language house.
“There’s so much more you can learn in that type of environment,” McCormack said.
In house students are not confined to the time restraints of a typical class, or the subject matter of a textbook. In a language house, students are actually able to immerse themselves in another language and culture.
Stacey Treat, a visiting professor of rhetoric, agrees that immersion is one of, if not the, most important way to learning not only a language but also a culture.
“(One) begins to learn about a specific culture through learning the spoken language of it,” Treat said.
Treat also cites one of the advantages of a language house, as opposed to study abroad, is that students are able to then learn about more than just one country’s culture. Using French as an example, students studying abroad in France would be exposed to primarily French customs, whereas students living in a language house can also be exposed to also Swiss, Belgian and French-Canadian customs, to name a few.
The current language program at Drake does not offer languages to be studied as a major or a minor, but rather offers them through a certificate program. As a requirement for the certificate, students must study abroad and therefore immerse themselves in the language if they hope to earn Drake’s competency certificate.
While study abroad programs are abundant, they can also be excessively expensive. Some students can be deprived a cultural immersion due to lack of funding. Others simply might not be able to study abroad for scheduling reasons. A language house, however, would offer a much cheaper immersion opportunity. Instead of Drake students flying to Europe or Asia to practice a language, they can walk a couple blocks off campus to find a cultural experience. Alexi de Lathouder, who studies Arabic at Drake and has studied Arabic with family abroad, fully supports having a language house on campus.
“I would be all about living in a language house. You get the perks of Greek life but immersion in language, too,” de Lathouder said.
Hanna Howard, a Drake student studying culture and society, supports language houses and the accompanying culture opportunities.
“A language house is going to help teach you more than you could learn on your own,” Howard said. “By learning a different language, you understand a different worldview, and by understanding others’ perspectives, you increase your own thinking abilities.”
Christen Bain, the administrative assistant of world languages and cultures, and Marc Cadd, an associate professor of German and the director of world languages and cultures at Drake, both support the idea of having a language house on campus.
Bain, who deals with international students on a regular basis, believes international students would also favor language houses. It would provide them a chance to connect with other Americans and exchange cultural customs.