Shortly before the U.S. academic year begins, some college students will be moving into foreign-language houses on or near campuses.
Foreign-language houses are available on many U.S. campuses and also at some schools in Canada, but they are unique to North America. These houses have one rule in common: Residents must commit to speaking exclusively in a non-English language. There are at least 19 languages spoken in foreign-language houses at campuses scattered across the U.S.
The students who choose this option benefit from practicing everyday conversation. Teaching assistants in language-study courses or international students often live in the houses alongside U.S. undergraduates. (International students wishing to learn a new language are encouraged to live somewhere other than a house that focuses on their native languages.)
Language houses for French and Spanish are the most popular, followed by German, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Russian and Arabic.
At Oberlin’s French House, teaching assistants from France encourage their housemates to take advantage of in-house French film screenings, French meals, Christmas and Mardi Gras celebrations, and parties during which residents put labels on furniture to help them learn vocabulary.
But a favorite for house residents is their preparation of French delicacies for a “Top Chef” baking competition. Food is one key to success, say students.