The closing of an academic year is a figurative “closing of the books” for many areas of campus life. For about 45 students living on language halls, this year marks the completion of BJU’s first-ever language hall program.

The University created language halls as a part of an overarching effort to connect various aspects of the student experience.

Dr. Jeremy Patterson, chair of the Division of Modern Language and Literature, said it has been a great first year. Patterson said the best part about the language halls is that it has increased students’ knowledge of their language and given them more confidence in using the language on a day-to-day basis.

“They’re not all totally fluent,” he said. “But they enjoy using it, and they don’t mind trying it.”

Natalie Odiorne, a sophomore exercise science major, said her first year on the Spanish language hall has been challenging at times, but she’s learned much through the experience.

“It has been so worth it though, because I feel like I can actually use the language and have a semi-normal conversation with someone in Spanish,” Odiorne said. “I look forward to seeing what opportunities God gives me to use what I’m learning.”

Zachary Zervas, a senior Bible major, was both an RA and a group leader on the Spanish language hall.

“As the leader of the group, I had the responsibility to lead the weekly book study, as well as the other nights of discipleship group,” he said. “Through the year, we sang many Spanish songs, grew closer as friends, learned a great deal about each other, and got a lot better at Spanish!”

Zervas said his leadership responsibilities came with many challenges since he was not a native speaker himself. 

“But it also came with many blessings,” he said. “The scope of my friend group widened as I came into contact with many native Spanish speakers even outside of my own group.”

Patterson is excited to see how the language halls will continue to develop.

“One of the biggest changes I’m going to make for next year will help with the bonding of groups,” he said.

It was sometimes difficult for groups to develop deep spiritual relationships with one another because of the language barrier. In the 2017 fall semester, Patterson plans to permit the language halls to speak English the first week during open exercises in order for the hall members to establish friendships.

Many people have asked Patterson about the prerequisites of joining a language hall. He said the only qualification is that the student must have completed a minimum of two semesters of a language. Students do not have to be currently enrolled in a language class in order to be on the hall.

Students who apply to be on a language hall are required to speak that language throughout the entire year. This means that all discipleship group meetings are held in a foreign language, and the conversations among participating hall members cannot be in English.

During the American Association of Christian Schools’ competition week, Patterson allowed the students to speak in English while interacting with the high school visitors. However, the French hall ended up speaking both in English and in French for discipleship group discussions because they weren’t used to speaking in English during that time.

Patterson said he was pleased to hear this.

“I want them to get that rapport established where it’s just natural to speak that language with each other,” he said.

Students who have completed one year on a language hall will be given a badge on their BJU student merit page as well as a certificate of participation. Those who complete two years will earn a certificate with merit—an award honoring their participation in the language halls.

This year, the women’s residence halls offered three languages: Chinese, Spanish and French.  The men’s residence halls offered Spanish. There is no guarantee, however, that the same languages will be offered each year. Language halls will change depending on the number of students who apply and the number of rooms available in the residence halls.