Nick Yugo
Staff Writer

The language tables, a weekly program at the International House, can help American and foreign students practice a new or a native language while socializing in a relaxed and conversational environment.
The program, with sessions Monday through Thursday at various one-hour intervals, hosts native speakers of French, Spanish, English, Japanese, German, Chinese, Portuguese and Korean.
With the establishment of the International and Intercultural Awareness Initiative, also known as Ready for the World, university administration is taking large steps to increase consciousness of global diversity on campus.
The initiative recognizes that college students must deal with the world in several ways. David Lawson, the associate director of the Center for International Education, said it has taken great efforts to highlight diversity and actively develops methods to “create more for students with international implications.”
Each semester, UT welcomes students from all over the world. When students arrive from overseas to study at UT, the I-House provides the unique experience to learn some aspects of a new culture without having to leave campus.
As part of the language tables, students gather in small groups for the chance to speak and listen to their own or foreign language.
“One of the program’s main purposes is to help students practice and learn a foreign language,” Lawson said. “The language tables are primarily directed at domestic students.”
Roxy Lu, a graduate student in educational psychology from Shanghai, China, and a graduate assistant at the I-House, organizes the program and helps choose the native speakers, who serve as discussion leaders during each session.
“I like the informal atmosphere with people at various levels of cultural awareness,” she said.
Lu said the program does more than merely help students practice a language.
“Creating general support and teaching U.S. students to appreciate other cultures are essential elements of the language tables,” she said.
Lu said students involved in international studies experience less “culture shock” when visiting or studying in foreign countries. Studying in foreign countries can be challenging, especially when the student is not familiar with the native language. The I-House and its programs help to alleviate some of these challenges.
What is unique about the language tables is that “they don’t take the place of traditional classroom studies,” Lu said.
This puts less pressure on students, since grades are not involved and nobody needs to be an expert.
The language tables are different from classroom learning where students are studying more formal aspects of a language, Lawson said. Language tables are strictly geared towards conversational skills used in the real world.
While everyone is welcome, attendants can gain more if they have some basic knowledge of the language of the table they choose to attend.
“Language tables are generally not directed at brand new speakers. People who benefit would be people with two to three years of foreign language or who have been abroad,” Lawson said.
The program can also benefit students aspiring to travel abroad. By attending the program regularly, they can get some basic knowledge of the language they have chosen to study before their exchange program begins.
The program’s benefits do not end there.
They “help international students who don’t want to lose their native tongue,” Lawson said.
Besides retaining their native language, international students can improve on a new one. The program also motivates students to improve their bilingual skills.
For more information on the I-House and its programs, call 974-4453 or visit the I-House at 1623 Melrose Ave., across the street from Hess Residence Hall.