The BYU Foreign Language Student Residence Program offers a new type of study abroad experience minutes from campus, and in Fall 2015 students who live there will get language credit and more specialized language training.
The FLSR Program, across the street from the MTC, is designed to help students quickly learn languages by letting them living on campus in a place they can be immersed in the culture and speak and hear the language continuously.
“I want to get the word out to students that don’t have enough time to take a foreign language class but want to be able to keep their foreign language skills up,” said FLSR director Tony Brown.
Brown said FLSR was designed for every student, not just those majoring in a foreign language. He said recent statistics show the number of residents majoring in studies other than humanities has increased.
FLSR students live in an environment where all residents speak the same foreign language. They have options to live in Portuguese, French, German, Russian, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese and Korean apartments.
Haley Wilson, a student living in the Hebrew house, said she enjoys getting to know a variety of people. “The foreign language housing attract different people, so it’s … like the melting pot of BYU,” she said.
Native speakers live in the apartments to work as language facilitators. Having a native speaker helps students to not speak in a way that is grammatically and culturally correct, Brown said.
Brown is excited for the upcoming advances in the program beginning Fall 2015. FLSR will give foreign language credit to all student residents. Students will also have access to new tests that will more accurately track their language progress. Brown hopes the changes will inspire a wider variety of students to get involved in the program.
There are also plans to set up more facilitator training with specialists. Brown explained it’s difficult for native speakers of any language to explain the “why” behind speech. The training will help the facilitators to know how to push and probe the students.
Students will also have the opportunity to meet with the facilitators and have longer conversations rather than just having dinner conversations.
Many students leave claiming they feel much better at speaking, according to Brown. He is passionate about helping students become advanced in their speech. This experience is not just to “shoot the breeze,” he said.
“Speaking the language is not enough; eventually you plateau,” Brown said. “Until you get enough input and get pushed, you’ll just stay at that level. These meetings and interviews are ways to get you to the next level.”
Erik Summers, who lives in the Arabic house, said he feels there is a community at the FLSR because of the interaction students have together. “They have interesting conversations,” Summers said. “They talk about politics, their lives back home and their families. They get very passionate about it, and you get to pick up on who is passionate. It’s more meaningful and eye opening than just the Super Bowl.”
Wilson shared an experience she had while celebrating the time God watched over the Israelites in the wilderness. Hebrew language students built a booth outside FLSR housing to eat in for eight days in remembrance of the booth the Israelites built and slept in. They recited prayers, sang songs and even held a candle lighting. “In that way it really gets you in touch with the culture,” she said.
Brown said FLSR students’ experiences will allow them to develop the capacity to understand and act on issues of global significance. “Students with global competence can investigate the world beyond their immediate environment,” he said. “They can recognize perspectives, others and their own.”
Recent data from the United States Census Bureau reported 33 percent of U.S. mid- and large-size companies have international operations or serve multilingual clientele. Brown said this data shows a substantial number of companies want employees with foreign language skills and multicultural experience.
“If you can take your degree and couple it with humanities, your foreign language skills, you have made yourself incredibly marketable,” Brown said. “Now you are very attractive to multi-national companies.”
Summers shared his own advice to anyone who hears about the FLSR program. “Just go for it,” he said. “Never let hesitancy stop you. If you do, you will never do everything you want to with that language.”