The University of Maryland’s RHA and Dining Services will introduce an event series this May to offer students more opportunities to speak foreign languages.

The “Language Nights” series will kick off May 2 in South Campus Dining Hall with a Spanish board game night from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m., according to Dining Services spokesperson Bart Hipple.

During the event, participants can play Spanish board games such as Spanish Monopoly,as well as games that do not require speaking, including chess and checkers, Hipple said.

Each language night will also feature corresponding cultural foods, Hipple said.

Mikhail Labar, the Resident Hall Association’s Dining Services coordinator, helped develop the initiative. Labar, who is learning multiple languages, said he wanted more opportunities to learn with other students and connect with native speakers.

“I have always liked learning languages … and I like just talking in other languages [and] going to events of that nature,” the freshman mechanical engineering major said. “I wanted to see more of that.”

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Labar said he prioritized the Spanish event because of the large Spanish-speaking community on campus.

The event would not only offer new Spanish speakers the opportunity to learn the language, but also help build community among fluent speakers, Labar said. He added that the series could also foster relationships between Spanish learners and fluent speakers.

Manel Lacorte, a Spanish and Portuguese professor in this university’s languages, literature and cultures school, said speaking languages in informal settings, such as playing games, can help increase a speaker’s fluency because it reinforces knowledge from coursework.

The language nights could help build community among foreign language speakers and international students, Lacorte, the Spanish and Portuguese departments’ program head, added.

“It’s always nice to interact, to have these types of social activities in languages other than in English, so that it creates a sense of community at a multilingual level and a multicultural level,” Lacorte said.

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Noa Blumenthal, a sophomore public health science major and Spanish minor, said she appreciates events like the board game night where she can practice her conversational skills outside of class.

“​​I feel like learning it outside of the classroom, in an informal environment, or in other contexts is really important,” Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal said she may attend the Spanish board game night because she is not enrolled in Spanish classes this semester.

Moving forward, Labar hopes to hold events for other languages, including Mandarin, French and Arabic.

Hipple said although it is unlikely Dining Services will host additional language nights this academic year, the department is excited to expand the initiative for the fall 2024 semester.

“We love it when students come in excited to be here [and] try something different to eat and gather as a group,” Hipple said. “[We hope] that this will be a boost for that community feeling.”