The LanguaCulture Space was established by Dr. Aileen Pearson-Evans as an international hub on the DCU Glasnevin Campus, to provide an informal, relaxed, inclusive environment for International and Domestic students to meet and share each other’s languages and cultures. It forms a big part of SALIS, the School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies.
A unique space on campus, it promotes multilingualism and multiculturalism, encourages face-to-face communication in languages other than English, supports students to move outside the comfort zone of their native languages to get to know fellow students from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds.
Students organise cultural events and language classes, multilingual speed-chatting, and multicultural comparative events for other students. All events are free of charge and open to the whole DCU community. As its name implies – using the term Languaculture coined by Michael Agar (1994) – its activities reflect the intimate bond between language and culture and aim to increase students’ appreciation of both.
Language classes focus primarily on developing practical conversational skills using the principles of communicative language teaching. DCU staff support students through initial training sessions in event organisation and communicative language teaching methods and ongoing monitoring of progress. Intercultural Ambassador / Teaching Certificates are awarded to all students who successfully organise and attend a series of cultural events
The overarching aim is to increase students’ engagement with linguistic and cultural diversity within the university and society in general, and facilitate positive interaction between different linguistic and cultural groups represented in the student body.
The initiative started with the five languages taught in SALIS (Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Spanish), but it has moved far beyond that. There have been classes and events in Irish, Hindi, Polish, Italian and Czech. The LanguaCulture Space is open to all students – not only to those who study languages. On the contrary – students are encouraged to take up a new language too.
Its activities develop both linguistic proficiency in foreign languages, and intercultural competence in communicating with members of cultures different from one’s own. A key objective is to combat the innate human tendency towards ‘homophily’ (Lazarsfeld & Merton, 1954) i.e. preference for mixing primarily with people like oneself and avoiding those one perceives as different.
DCU International students refer to the LanguaCulture Space as a ‘home from home’ – they become more aware of their own language/culture through developing teaching skills abroad, and establish contact with students from many different cultures, especially Irish students studying their languages. It can help combat homesickness and result in friendships with Irish students that continue after one’s return home.