What is a Language Assistant?

Daisuke OgataA Language Assistant (LA) is a staff member who assists our Foreign Languages and Literatures or Spanish faculty. Whitman College hires LAs every year in Chinese, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish. In addition to their academic responsibilities, LAs live in the appropriate interest houses on campus – promoting the speaking of the target language in that house, and giving students a chance to partake in something approaching an immersion experience without leaving campus. 

LAs typically facilitate a number of conversation groups (which are subsections of a specific language class). The size and frequency of conversation groups vary, but in general, conversation groups give students the chance to practice the target language in an intimate setting with someone who is not only an expert in the language, but in the culture (or one of the cultures) associated with the language.

Finally, the LAs often organize or support cultural events for the campus. These might take the form of cooking classes, dancing lessons, movie screenings, improvisational acting practice, radio programs, or anything else that is a particular interest of the LA. The Language Assistants’ energy and expertise help inspire continued language learning, as well as study and travel abroad.

Writing in Japanese on the whiteboard in the LLCThe LAs, together with the LLC Coordinator and the LLC Consultants (student workers), form the Language Learning Center team. We are here to assist students who have an interest in learning a language, or who want to continue developing their acquisition of a language. We also believe that a desire to learn a language is a reflection of a desire to communicate with others across cultures, and we seek to foster such communication by providing a variety of opportunities for interaction.