Say ni hao (你好) – or bonjour, hallo, kon'nichiwa (こんにちは), privet (привет) or hola – to Union’s Language Center, which relocated its space to the third floor of Old Chapel adjacent to the International Programs Office.
An open house Tuesday, April 4, from 4 to 6 p.m. will highlight the facility, both offices’ staff and their resources. Refreshments will be served, with foods representative of various countries.
Members of the Union community will have an opportunity to meet language assistants in Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Russian and Spanish and take part in a number of cultural and linguistic activities.
Students who have recently returned from study abroad programs also will be on hand to talk about their experiences, as will faculty who lead programs.
Previously located in Schaffer Library, the Language Center welcomes students and faculty of all languages and levels. Much more than a physical space, it operates as an intercultural hub that encourages students, faculty and staff to build proficiency in world languages and explore global perspectives.
“You can drop in or make an appointment to meet with language assistants, mentors (tutors) in the languages we offer and conversation partners in Spanish,” said Director Audrey Sartiaux, who is also an instructor of French and the language assistant coordinator. “Our aim is to encourage both formal and informal learning.”
"The MLL faculty and our language students feel that the new Language Center better evokes the intercultural dynamics and diversity we associate with the richness of Modern Languages and Literatures,” said Daniel O. Mosquera, department chair and professor of Spanish and Hispanic Studies, and Latin American and Caribbean Studies. “We find the new space bright and welcoming and are very thankful to Audrey Sartiaux and the College for facilitating this change.”
In addition to offices, the spacious new environment features a lab set up with the latest technology, and lab sessions conducted integrate education with technology, culture and media “in ways that are engaging and motivating,” Sartiaux said.
“We aim to put our students in real-world situations where they acquire the linguistic and cross-cultural skills needed to be successful in conversing with native speakers here and abroad.”
The center also hosts several events each term, such as International Trivia, Chinese Opera, Québécois and Hockey, and International Board Games Night. A kitchenette adds to the comfortable ambience.
“We have created a friendly environment for students to learn and practice their language skills while we support the diversity of our student population,” Sartiaux said. “Many of our staff are either international students or heritage speakers who enjoy sharing their language and culture.”
In addition to Sartiaux, the current language assistants – graduate students from Chile, France, Germany, Japan and Taiwan, and a Fulbright student from Russia – help with the four main skills needed to speak a language (reading, writing, listening and speaking), including complex grammar and composition.
Mentors in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Spanish and Russian are available to practice speaking, assist with class assignments and play games in the target language.
Those taking intermediate or advanced Spanish classes can engage with conversation partners, who are native and heritage speakers.
“Having the new space adjoin ours is ideal,” said Lara Atkins, director of the International Programs Office. “Our study abroad students can use the Language Center’s resources in preparation for their travels, and conversely, students who are taking language classes can come to our office to learn about where and how they can put those skills to work in the world.”
Union offers more than 40 study abroad programs in 25 countries. Programs in most non-English speaking countries have language classes as requirements or electives for participants.