TCU implements language immersion program

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    English is becoming a second language for a select group of students at TCU.

    French and German is now the primary language for the 16 students in the pilot program of a language immersion community on campus. They live in a wing of Mabee Hall in Tom Brown-Pete Wright apartments.

    Dr. Cynthia Chapa, faculty advisor of the German language house, said that the students are encouraged to speak, read, write and perform all manners of communication in their language of choice. At designated times each day, they submerge themselves in the culture of their target language.

    Chapa, also a German instructor, said “the program will enable students to get the application of the language outside the classroom that is needed to attain a comfortable fluency in the language.”

    The immersive learning community allows students to not only advance their language proficiency but also to deepen their knowledge of another culture, Chapa said.

    “That is the essence of the language house,” Chapa said. “It’s the language and the culture.”

    A resident assistant who is a native speaker of either French or German lives in each house. Marie Schein, faculty advisor of the French language house, said the resident assistant oversees participating students and ensures that the language is being spoken frequently. 

    At the beginning of the program, students must sign a pledge agreeing to use the language to their best ability.

    “The pledge requires them to try to use the target language as much as possible because we do have to take into consideration the various levels of proficiency that the students bring in,” said Schein, who is also a French instructor.

    Other than getting to practice the language in a living environment, each house puts on a number of social gatherings throughout the year to further the students’ understanding of the language and culture.

    First-year business major Gabi Ruiz-Roehrs spent last year in Germany studying the language. She chose to live in the language house to maintain her German skills.

    “The language house is the closest thing to immersion you can get,” Ruiz-Roehrs said. “You can really connect with people who are learning the same language as you because you oftentimes find you have the same struggles.”

    Qualifying students who wish to participate in the program next year must have sophomore standing, be currently enrolled in a French or German class and have taken a year’s equivalent of French or German courses.

    Faculty of the Department of Modern Language Studies said they see the program becoming very competitive in the future. Chapa said she hopes it will expand to offer programs in more languages.

    “Ultimately, as this proves to be successful, and we do anticipate that it will be successful, we hope to add languages other than German and French,” Chapa said.