Hardesty Language Community provides immersion for learners

Starting next year, TU students can sign up to live in a portion of Hardesty Hall designated specifically for students learning French, Chinese, Spanish, Russian or German.

TU students can now get a taste of international living without leaving the state of Oklahoma. Next fall marks the beginning of the Hardesty Language Community, a portion of Hardesty Hall designated specifically for language learners.

Applications are open for students learning French, Chinese, Spanish, Russian or German.

The community is a collaboration between TU Housing and the Department of Language and Comparative Literature.

Dr. Victor Udwin, associate professor of German and comparative literature and one of the program’s organizers, said that the community is meant to supplement the university’s new International Engineering and Languages program.

“To make a success of that, we really wanted a living situation to be made available to the students to support their effort,” he said.

Udwin explained that the community is also intended for international business and language students, as well as students in the language and comparative literature department.

However, students don’t need to have a degree in one of those three programs to participate in the Hardesty Language Community. Students who participate in the Global Scholars program will likely be invited, and anyone interested in travel or language learning is welcome to apply.

“We’re trying to be as open to everybody who thinks they can contribute … our main requirement would just be commitment to the idea,” he said.

The introduction of the new IEL program, as well as the availability of Hardesty Hall, created what Udwin calls a “perfect storm” of factors which led to the community’s creation. There have been a few iterations of language living communities on TU campus in the past. The most successful of these, the 10th St. Language House, ended around 2002 when it was moved to a new location on campus.

“We learned how important the place you put your community is,” Udwin explained. “It’s not just about the idea. You need to have the right space.”

The Hardesty Language Community’s organizers feel that its location, the 3rd floor of Hardesty Hall, is the right space. It has a great room that provides a common hangout space, outdoor plaza, medieval windows that Udwin says provide a bit of old European flavor, and a combined living space and kitchen.

The organizers hope that students will use the kitchen to their advantage. “Cooking different cuisines is always of interest to people who are studying different languages … it’s one of the easiest ways to gain access to different cultures, just to eat their food. Especially if it’s delicious,” Udwin joked.

“The way that people are around their food is cultural. The way they eat their food is cultural. What they talk about while they’re eating, how long they take to eat, all those things are really important cultural elements that can’t be taught in a classroom,” he explained.

Hardesty Hall is also in a central location on campus, allowing not only for the meeting of different languages and cultures, but colleges.

The language community is intended to supplement TU’s already intensive language programs and study abroad opportunities.

“Language isn’t just about learning to put sentences together. It’s about learning the literature, learning the history, learning how the society has been constructed in the past and how it’s being constructed today. It’s part of the humanities,” Udwin said. He commented that many of TU’s language programs, especially IBL, are notable for their high language learning standards and goal to encompass all of these attributes.

Dr. Christopher Anderson, professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature and another of the program’s organizers, agreed. “When we send students abroad, they come back really competent. TU is special in that way. We don’t compromise,” he said.

Udwin commented that the language community would hopefully help prepare students for similar living situations abroad and provide an opportunity for students who have already been abroad to help their peers — essentially, to assist students before, during and after the study abroad process.

He also hopes that the community will be a resource for those who want to continue their language learning but don’t want to pursue a language degree.

The organizers hope to see a mix of American and international students living in the community to help facilitate the international experience.

Students in the community will be in charge of programming, which in the past has included events like art shows, music, presentations by students or guest speakers, dance classes and international film showings.

“[The 10th St. Language House] became the most fun place to be on the weekend at TU,” Udwin said. “It was very lively. That’s what we’re hoping for again.”

Both Udwin and Anderson think that the Hardesty Language Community will facilitate TU’s already thriving tradition of international learning.

“What we hope to do with these various degrees, and with the language house, and with study abroad, is to [ensure that] when you leave here you’re a different person, and also, you’re ready for a job in many, many countries around the world,” Anderson said.

Applications for the Hardesty Language Community are still open, and Udwin estimates that they will be open through June 1.

Post Author: Hannah Kloppenburg