Community building and foreign language learning: Language Tables at ND

Author: Charlene Dundek

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If you offered most students the opportunity to spend an extra hour in DeBart on a Wednesday evening after a long day of class, most would probably roll their eyes and walk away. However, if you walk into the multi-purpose room in the CSLC at that time, you would find it hard to hear yourself think over the sound of so many students talking and laughing. 

Language tables are popular events hosted by the language departments intended to nourish foreign language development and conversational skills. Each language table experience is unique depending on the week and the language; some language tables provide a no-pressure environment to practice your conversation skills while other language tables feature food and cultural experiences unique to the language.

This past Wednesday, Fulbright FLTA John Woods hosted the weekly Irish Language Table. Well over a dozen students from different years and class levels attended the session. It started off with the students pairing up with another student from a different class level and introducing themselves in Irish. Right away the room filled with laughter and lively conversation that lasted for the rest of the session.

Woods noted that when he plans the weekly language table, he tries to organize it so he does the least talking. The goal each week, according to Woods, is to get students talking to each other to “develop vocab in an organic conversation context.” This week’s session included a spin-off of Hollywood Game Night and a lesson on adjectives designed to get them talking.

The language table experience serves as a community builder between students that’s fun, positive, and energetic. “I want them to come back and study Irish next semester,” Woods says. And that’s the ultimate goal: to strengthen students’ language skills and build them into the fabric of the foreign language community.

Language tables are also hosted in Japanese, Korean, Arabic, French, Portuguese, German, Chinese, Spanish, and English. They all serve an integral role in strengthening language skills and developing community between students across the department. As Woods says, “In here, it feels like everyone’s a peer.”

For the schedule of CSLC language tables visit: http://cslc.nd.edu/programs/language-tables/