Thursday, November 21, 2013

Language House Life

When I first came to Macalester, I knew I wanted to study languages. I had all these ideas of trying new languages and becoming fluent in things like Arabic and French as well as continuing my Spanish from high school. My first semester I tried a French class. It was interesting, but I soon found I didn’t have time to learn more than one language, so I returned to Spanish, which is now one of my majors.

My sophomore year I applied to live in the Spanish House. Macalester has several language houses—Spanish, French, Japanese, and more. These houses are just off campus, located on Vernon Street behind the tennis courts. If you’re coming to Mac and are dedicated to learning a language, you should definitely consider living in one of these language houses. It’s a great experience that truly exposes you to another language and culture.

Each house has one or two native speakers who live with the students and help them with the language and anything else that comes up. They are not RAs, but they are a great resource. The two native speakers now living in the Spanish House are Cecillia and Antonella. Cecillia, or Ceci, as we call her, is from Mexico and Antonella, or Nella, is from Argentina; both are also language lab instructors.

While living in the Spanish House, I was aware that my language skills were improving. This process was greatly helped by the house’s regular activities and events, such as weekly dinners. At those meals we only spoke Spanish, so it’s a perfect way to learn. When Ceci and Nella took their turns cooking, they often made traditional dishes—everything from main courses to desserts.

We also exchanged gifts during the winter holidays by organizing a Secret Santa, regularly watched movies together, had friends over, and just generally hung out as a house. Also, throughout the year the Hispanic Studies Department hosts events at the Spanish House, including an ice cream social and community dinners. The whole department is invited to these events, so the house becomes quite a popular spot. Professors come with their families, students bring friends, and the whole house attends. There is almost always a piƱata or two along with plenty of food and goodies. It’s always a great time!

So plan ahead. If you think that learning a second language at Mac is for you, look into living in one of the language houses after your first year. You won’t regret it.

- Emma Wheeler ’15