Learn at the Language House

​What’s so great about going to the University of Maryland, it that there truly is something for everyone. If you’re into sports there are millions of opportunities for watching and playing. If you like to read there are six libraries on campus. And if you like to explore different cultures and languages, you can study abroad, but you can also learn while living right here on campus!

I got the chance to talk to senior Elizabeth Byers, a Spanish and government and politics double major who lives in the Language House. She told me all about what it takes to live in the house and all the opportunities that come with it.

The Language House houses about 80-100 people who speak ten different languages which are referred to as clusters. The ten languages include Spanish, French, German, Russian, Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Italian, Chinese, and Japanese. Living in the house is a process that includes more than just proving you can speak another language explained Elizabeth.

“In order to live in the Language House, you first have to fill out an application and write an essay about why you’re interested in living in the House. After the application, you have a language proficiency interview with a faculty member from the department of whichever language you are interested in living in the House for—this makes sure that you are proficient enough to be able to speak the target language all of the time,” Elizabeth said “After the language proficiency interview, you have an interview with the Director of the LH. If you pass all three of these steps, you are then offered a place in the House.”

Elizabeth (right) and a friend at a Language House event

After getting placed in the House, you are not done yet. Once you live there, there are other responsibilities you have to maintain a spot and show that you are committed to living there.

“While living in the Language House, you are required to take a class of your target language every semester that you live in the House,” Liz explained. “You are also required to attend House and cluster (language group) events and maintain a minimum GPA, to retain eligibility.” Anyone is allowed to live in the Language House starting their second semester freshman year and is allowed to continue living in the Language House as long as they maintain eligibility. Ideally, you are supposed to speak your target language 100 percent of the time when you are in your apartment or with other members of your cluster.

“We even text in our target language or speak it when we run into each other on campus. Obviously, in reality, it’s difficult to speak a second language 100 percent—and so people will speak to each other in English sometimes,” Elizabeth said. “Also, even though everyone has passed a language proficiency interview, people have different levels of proficiency, and so some people are more able to speak in the target language all of the time than others.”

Elizabeth (second from the right) and some friends at a Language House event

Like any living situation, there are ups and downs to the experience. Elizabeth explained what she likes and dislikes about living in the Language House.

“It's a really good way to improve your language skills by forcing yourself to use it; the Language House is full of really amazing, enthusiastic people and it’s a close community of people who really care about each other; combines the convenience of on-campus housing with the advantages of living in an apartment (kitchen!)” But on the other hand, Elizabeth explained “it’s a heavy time commitment and doesn’t always leave room for other things.”

 

Before you know it, the time will come to decide where you will live next year! Consider trying to live in the Language House and challenge yourself every day.