McMahon Hall To Incorporate a “Language Community”


Published: November 17, 2010

McMahon Hall’s Residential Life is expanding its community to include a bilingual language environment. Beginning in the 2011 fall semester, McMahon Hall will offer a “language community” to upperclassmen. This community, referred to as the “French house,” will be comprised of two side-by-side apartments designated strictly to French-speaking students.

According to Andrew Clark, professor of French and chair of the modern language department at FCLC, language houses typically maintain a community of students who are bilingual or fluent in a particular language, along with others who are intermediate or advanced in that same language.

Although the community is designed to promote a French-speaking home environment, students who desire to live in the community are not required to be fluent in French. However, students are required to make a pledge to speak only French while in the apartments.

As an initiator of the language community, Clark said, “We have been discussing the possibility of having a language community for sometime, but we finally made the push and received the support from the Dean to start one.”

Clark said that he and Rev. Robert Grimes, S.J., dean of FCLC, spoke about incorporating languages other than French in the future.

“The French House is an experiment that if proven productive and beneficial for the Fordham community, I think it would be quite possible that the modern languages department would propose to the Dean another language in which it has a major and developed program; the success of a language learning community relies primarily, however, on the enthusiasm of the students,” Clark said.

As for the students who will be part of the French community in McMahon Hall, preference will be given to French majors, minors and those who have studied or will study abroad in France or a Francophone country. “Ideally, a student whose French is good but not fluent would live in the community sophomore year, go to France or a Francophone country junior year and then return senior to live again in the French house,” Clark said.

“That way we will always have different levels of French circulating through the house, and people bringing back their cultural experiences, music or objects to share with the Fordham community,” he said.

There will be a total of seven open spots for students to vacate within the community. “Depending on the students’ interest, both apartments will be only for women, or one apartment will be for women and one for men,” Clark said.

Victoria Khoury, FCLC ’13 and president of La Société française, and Claire Beatley, FCLC ’13, are both fluent in French and said they are supportive of the idea and willing to help establish the French house at Fordham.

The French house will reach out to the community by organizing events and coordinating activities with La Société française,” Clark said. The class will not be in conjunction with any classes at FCLC, though.

Although the new language community will be restricted to a French atmosphere, its purpose is not meant to segregate students based on language and culture.

“While it is still in the works, the French house would have various traditions and events, such as occasional dinners, viewings of French film and such,” Beatly said. “In these cases, I don’t see why people not part of the suite could not come and enjoy these events.”

Khoury also said, “These dorms will segregate people no more than people choosing who they are going to live with does.”

Jenifer Campbell, director of Residential Life, said, “[Resident Assistants (RAs)] will not need additional training for the incoming language community.”

However, Beatly will receive specific training and will work closely with the RAs responsible for the language community, according to Clark.

Students who are interested in applying for the French House in Fordham’s first language community must fill out an application that will be reviewed by Clark, Campbell, and Grimes.

“Dean Grimes and Jenifer Campbell won’t be selecting or censoring the students who live in the French house, but they will both working with me to help make the community successful, and I am grateful to have their experience and expert knowledge of McMahon Hall,” Clark said.