Language tables help NU students develop conversational and cultural skills


Jonah Elkowitz/The Daily Northwestern

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese. A variety of language departments offer language tables to help students develop their interpersonal and cultural skills.

Selena Kuznikov, Reporter

Northwestern’s language departments began offering tables for students to come together and develop conversational skills more than 15 years ago. 

After a year of being fully remote, the events returned to being held in person last quarter. The tables help students become comfortable with the language by maturing their communication skills and helping them understand the cultural aspects of French, according to French Prof. Katia Viot-Southard.

French Prof. Aude Raymond said her department’s table is still feeling the impact of lower student engagement due to being offered online last year. But they are hoping for more turnout throughout the remainder of the academic year.

“It’s definitely good for the students to make connections,” Raymond said. “They can see people that they were with in previous classes and meet new people and share their interests.”

The French department hosts language tables 12 to 1 p.m. Mondays in Allison Dining Hall. Students with a meal plan can enjoy their lunches while also familiarizing themselves with French concepts.

Weinberg sophomore Nathan Ryan said compared to being completely online last year, the in-person French language tables have helped him develop quick-thinking skills.

“Coming to something like the French table is especially nice because you get to have a conversation that doesn’t have much to do with your class,” Ryan said. “It’s more casual and you get to see what it’s like to talk to someone who is native in the language in a non-classroom setting.”

According to Hebrew Prof. Hanna Tzuker Seltzer, the language tables aren’t just for students enrolled in language classes. She said the tables also provide a positive space for those who can’t fit a language class into their schedule or want to retain the language after completing their requirements.

“It’s a good opportunity to see how they’ve developed,” Tzuker Seltzer said. “The Hebrew table allows them to express themselves.”

The Spanish language department is offering two language tables, Mesa de español, this quarter in Kresge Hall. 

Spanish Prof. Rifka Cook said participation in the tables has been more active since transitioning back to in-person events following the Zoom tables offered last year.

Spanish professors center the tables around themed events — like an upcoming event focusing on Valentine’s Day — and speed dating, in which students have the opportunity to learn more about one another and practice their conversational skills.

“Giving them a space to talk to each other and get to know each other and share their different experiences also emphasizes the culturally rich environment that we have and are creating within this department,” Spanish Prof. Irene Finestrat Martínez said.

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @selenakuznikov

Related Stories: 

Fifteen students to use Undergraduate Language Grant to fund immersive language learning this summer

Evanston Public Library to host Spanish financial literacy modules in “Mes de la Educación Financiera” throughout May

Evanston City Clerk Stephanie Mendoza prioritizes language accessibility