No language barrier at HSE

Russian and international students discuss their experiences of participating in the events of HSE’s French Club and Club Español.

No language barrier at HSE

Students tend to study foreign languages. Learning other languages and cultures is useful not only for career but also for broadening the horizons. However, overcoming a language barrier is not that easy.

What is the key to successful expression of thoughts in a different language? Practice! HSE offers a lot of possibilities to apply foreign languages in life communication. In this article we want you to learn about two HSE clubs which help you to become confident and master even non-trivial discussions in French and Spanish - the most popular anguages.

Speaking may seem hard but it is the best way to master a language

Language barrier is not always related to a low level of knowledge. Often it is a fusion of the latter factor and anxiety. FLCA - «Foreign language classroom anxiety » is the term for this phenomenon. It is said that «communication apprehension » is one of the main aspects of FLCA. It is connected to the lack of communication skills (Karatas, Alci, Bademcioglu, Ergin, 2016). Unfortunately, not every language classroom provides an opportunity for a friendly and realistic speaking environment. Moreover, to find an interlocutor outside the classroom by yourself can also be a tricky task (Timpe-Laughlin, Sydorenko, Daurioc, 2020). In this way, it seems obvious that universities should create extracurricular events for students to practice more in comfortable conditions.

Activities in the French Club

Besides discussions of basic and also non-trivial topics, the French Club organizes events which help to develop L2 vocabulary and grammar. The club is suitable for both beginners and advanced speakers. The most popular types of meetings are cinema watching, quiz and board games evenings. The French Club is also planning to add creative master-classes to the list of possible events.

As for the recent meetings of the French Club, the team has organized an evening of board games, where even the shyest students have practiced their language skills in a friendly company of francophiles. A1 learners discovered many useful words and expressions, when advanced speakers were broadening their horizons with new information about French culture. The fact is the lack of vocabulary is one of the common reasons for the language barrier. However it is not necessary to know a word if you know its synonyms. Thus, with A1-C1 speakers, the French Club often plays the most popular board game helping to develop language skills - charades and “guess the celebrity” game.

Club Español

In comparison with the French Club which has been functioning for sixteen years, Club Español is much younger - it has been in existence for a year only. Nevertheless, Club Español is dramatically developing and organizing meetings for Spanish language lovers. The team tries to make the Club’s life as varied as possible, alternating different types of events: interactive master-classes, festivals, cinema evenings, speed dating.

Recently Club Español has invited students to watch  and discuss  the original version of the legendary Spanish film «Jamón, jamón» starring Penélope Cruz and  Javier Bardem. The discussion of the film was very lively. What is more, participants were using new words from the film. In order to create a friendly atmosphere the Club has provided some snacks - jamon slices, after the film title.

Everyone who has ever studied foreign languages is familiar with the lack of authentic materials which are really helpful for developing language skills and, consequently, overcoming language barrier. That is why, every Saturday in Club Español is the Student’s day, when native speakers record audio and video messages to the telegram channel. In this way, language lovers can hear real  natives’ pronunciation, and, what is more - to feel the sunny disposition of Spanish-speaking students!


Now let us talk to the people in charge of the Clubs.

Alexandra Tavrovskaya - co-organizer of French Club and Club Español, HSE MA student of Foreign Languages and Intercultural Communication Program

Being a relatively shy person, I have always pushed myself to speak more. I’ve  tried public speech and debate courses. But what I really need is to visit speaking clubs at my University. French Club HSE, as well as Club Español invite you to a very friendly and cozy environment with almost endless possibilities of practicing foreing language: lectures, games, quizzes, discussions, round tables and meetings with native speakers, of course. Since I am among the organizers of both clubs, my words sound a bit like a self-advertisement. In fact, I just hope that students  will be motivated and make  the first step to overcoming the language barrier. I am indeed thankful for every event full of diverse linguo-cultural activities and new friends, both: Russian and international.

Sofya Kotereva - the head of the French Club HSE , a student of BA in Foreign Languages and Intercultural Communication

Being involved in the activities of the French Club from my first year of studying, I can conclude that it is an excellent tool for improving French language skills. The preparation of events and participation in it allows the use of French not as an academic discipline but as a way of real life communication. It has a strong practical application. Even for those who prefer a more academic register of speech, the club gives opportunities to practice the language within the annual French Conference «La France et la francophonie d’aujourd’hui» which is an incredibly unique experience!

Darya Borozdina - co-organizer of French Club for three years, also the head of a young French speaking club «Table Ronde Hse » (Round Table HSE), MA student of Integrative Communication Program

I believe the best way to learn a language is to surround yourself with it. The thing I enjoy about being a French Club member, is that you can learn the language by communicating with people, organizing events and creating new inspiring projects. Being a part of this organization helped me to improve my language skills and most importantly overcoming the fear of expressing myself in French during my University classes and in conversation with my French friends. I don’t have any French classes at the moment and I am afraid I’m going to forget the language. However, the French Club allows me to practice.

Ecclesiaste Ngongo, an international student of the master’s program in Business Administration

The HSE French Сlub is one of the best places where I feel at home and where I can practice my French so as not to forget it. Thanks to the Club I can make many new and interesting friends.

Naydan Mongush, an HSE student of Foreign Languages and Intercultural Communication Program, first year of Master’s degree

The cinema evening in Club Español was absolutely lovely, the movie was so peculiarly weird that we bonded over the shock of it all and the language barrier never had a chance! The girls were so kind, their Spanish was fluent and intelligible and it definitely helped to set the mood and to refresh the memory of a language (almost) forgotten. It was overall a wonderful evening that reignited my hope for my Spanish skills.

We hope that this article will inspire you to try new things. It is important to realize that everyone makes mistakes speaking even their mother tongue. In order to make progress, we also need to allow ourselves to make mistakes. If you have A1 level, basic vocabulary and grammar knowledge, or C1 level, but you cannot speak because of shyness - do visit speaking clubs at HSE. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Practice with natives. Try to use synonyms. Remember that not understanding the interlocutor or being misunderstood is not a shame. Do not be afraid and use the opportunity to enhance your language skills. Just speak up!


  1. Karatasa, Alci, Bademcioglub, Erginc, An Investigation into University Students Foreign Language Speaking Anxiety, 2016, link;
  2. Timpe-Laughlina, Sydorenkob, Daurioc, Using spoken dialogue technology for L2 speaking practice: What do teachers think?, 2020.

Text by

Alexandra Tavrovskaya