Parlez-vous Francais? ¿Habla usted español? Nĭ hui shuō pŭ tōng huà? Sprechen sie Deutsch? Nihongo o hanashimasu ka? Você fala português? Hal tatakallam al-‘arabīya? *
If you answered “yes” to any of these, it’s time to check out Preston House. It’s not only home to the Language and Culture Program, it’s also where 35 Denison students—all fascinated by foreign languages and cultures—live, learn, and have fun together.
It’s at Preston House that students gathered on a recent evening to crowd around wooden tables and learn how to draw their names and write short sentences in Chinese and Arabic calligraphy. Others mingled around the room, nibbling on flat bread and homemade hummus.
It’s events like the calligraphy lesson (presented by Xinda Lian, professor of Chinese, and Sadika Ramahi, visiting instructor of Arabic) and things like international movie nights and potlucks, off-campus Sunday brunches, field trips to nearby Japanese gardens and bi-weekly colloquiums that give these folks lots of chances to discover new customs and learn about some places they’ve never even thought about before. And the program, sponsored by the Department of Modern Languages and the Office of Residential Life, helps students get ready for study abroad.
In the last month alone, visitors to Preston have been treated to Chinese dumplings prepared by Lian, and, on Fat Tuesday, the house hosted an authentic Mardi Gras celebration, complete with shiny beads, masks, chicken Colombo, and the traditional cinnamon king cake. The event, courtesy of Christine Armstrong, associate professor of French, and Granville resident Pierre Dairon, attracted revelers to learn about the Mardi Gras customs in northern and southern France, the French Caribbean island Martinique, and New Orleans. And the conversations were all in French.
The night was topped off with a lesson in dancing the traditional two-step by a jolly clown and a witch with long black hair. What a great way to celebrate a centuries-old carnival.
* Just in case you don’t speak seven languages, these are French, Spanish, Chinese, German, Japanese, Portuguese and Arabic questions asking, “Do you speak ____?” All seven are represented by Preston House residents.