TCU’s Language Houses for French and German students, located in the Tom Brown/Pete Wright Residential Community, have had a semester full of trial and error.
The language immersion program was proposed last spring and implemented in the fall semester. Since its implementation, student participants have been immersed in German and French culture through events and field trips.
The Language Houses are located in a wing on the second floor of Mabee Hall. Students who participate in the program are required to sign a pledge upon moving in, agreeing to speak the language they’re studying as much as possible and make an effort to immerse themselves in the culture.
Dr. Marie Schein, a French professor and the French Language House sponsor, suggested the idea to the Office of Housing and Residence Life after students approached her asking why TCU doesn’t have a French Language House.
“Language Houses exists in many universities across this country,” Schein said. “There are lots of benefits: primarily the fact that students can live in an immersive space where they can actually practice the language 24/7.”
Schein said the study of culture begins with the study of languages, so bringing in cultural activities is “paramount to what [they] do in the Language Houses.”
Dr. Cynthia Chapa, the German Language House sponsor, said the German students that are living in the Language Houses are “much more invested in their study.”
“It makes the language real for them, and opens up cultural avenues that they wouldn’t have explored before,” Chapa said.
Ashley Gonzalez, a sophomore political science and French double major, moved into the French Language House this semester. She said she sees the program exposing her to new cultural experiences she wouldn’t otherwise have.
Schein said one thing she hopes will improve this semester is the implementation of cultural cuisine in the suites. The students are supposed to prepare meals that reflect French or German culture. However, most recipes are in their language of study, and measurements and instruction could be confusing to someone who doesn’t have enough background knowledge.
Schein said she plans to be more involved with the students so that they’re able to prepare meals.
Chapa said she hopes the demand for the Language Houses improves as knowledge of the program spreads.
“It’s a big challenge because, for one thing, the residence where the houses are located is Tom Brown/Pete Wright,” Chapa said. “Well, [Tom Brown/Pete Wright] cannot have freshmen there so we can’t recruit among freshmen.”
There are eight beds in each suite. Each Language House is supposed to house four men and four women.
Because of the lack of participants, the empty beds in the Language Houses were filled with other TCU students.
Emily O’Brien, a junior psychology major, lives in one of the French houses but is not a French student.
“It’s definitely interesting,” O’Brien said, “because there are a lot of French decorations and they cook a lot of food, so I’ve gotten to see a lot of stuff that I don’t normally see through what they do in the room.”
David Cooper from the Office of Housing and Residence Life said he isn’t sure if the program will expand to different languages because they’re “pretty happy about this [program]” but “you never know what the future holds.”
Cooper said the program is a part of Housing and Residence Life’s general programming budget, so students don’t pay more than the normal cost of living in Tom Brown/Pete Wright.