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A Language Oasis at BYU

Check out the LISR, an immersive language experience within walking distance of BYU campus.

You dream of going to France, you watch French movies, listen to French podcasts, and your ringtone is “La vie en rose” sung in all French. But when you open your banking app, your savings say the only cultural experience you can afford is eating rice every night for dinner. Don’t despair!

Just beyond Wymount Terrace lies a housing community known as the Language Immersion Student Residence, or LISR. You might have heard of it before under the name Foreign Language Student Residence; the name change clarifies that the LISR is available to any student interested in language immersion—not just for foreign language students (a common misconception). The LISR is more than just a housing complex under Campus Accommodations. It is primarily a language immersion experiential learning program sponsored by the College of Humanities. This makes the LISR an excellent way to experience enhanced language learning.

Professor Hans-Wilhelm Kelling (German Cultural History and Literature), director of the LISR and the German House faculty coordinator, played an instrumental role in the founding of the LISR in the 1970s. He recognized that language immersion greatly increases the speed and scope of language acquisition and worked to create a place where immersion could happen. Since then, he has helped expand the LISR, which currently offers at least nine languages in this immersive style: ASL, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. While physically living at the LISR, residence students pledge to speak only their house language. This creates an environment that immerses them deeply in the target language.

Of course, students can visit a foreign country to increase language and cultural skills; it’s a strength of our many study abroad programs. However, the LISR offers several advantages: study abroad programs typically cost much more and do not necessarily include language immersion. For example, many countries have accommodations for English speakers, so students can get by with less language competency than the LISR requires. Further, because the LISR is a housing unit where students live together and have pledged to speak only the target language, they hold each other accountable for learning. This full language-living experience helps students acquire language in every part of their lives, from casual chatting to writing grocery lists and journal entries to more intense language study. Additionally, a student native speaker is selected by the faculty coordinator of each language program to fill the role of language facilitator (LF) in each apartment to help the students improve and increase their language proficiency (practice slang and regional accents). Students in each language house eat together Monday–Thursday and occasionally enjoy cultural cuisine which they learn to cook together, which provides yet another delicious learning opportunity.

Students with some prior language experiences are encouraged to apply for the program. Humanities majors and minors may also apply for a scholarship to offset some of the cost of rent. The requirements to participate in the LISR program are surprisingly easy to meet:

  • be a current BYU student 
  • be enrolled in at least nine credit hours during fall and winter semesters 
  • have reached an intermediate level of language proficiency 
  • Agree to uphold the LISR Language Pledge

Faculty members say the best part of the LISR is watching the student relationships grow as they learn from each other. The LISR experience offers the chance to dive deep into a language while being surrounded by a supportive community of fellow language learners and friends.

Learn more about the available language programs at the LISR website.