Language Programs

There are a variety of language programs and opportunities at Penn, whether you are looking to learn a new language, strengthen your written or verbal proficiency, or chat with others who are fluent in a common language. 

Language Chats

 The Language Chats Program at the Grad Center provides opportunities for students to practice a foreign language in an informal social setting. Language chats are not a class, but are instead a fun way for students to strengthen their language skills and meet other practiced speakers in a target language.  

Spring 2024 Language Chats

Come meet other Penn graduate and professional students and practice your language skills during our Fall 2023 language chats! Language chats provide an opportunity for students to practice a target language in an informal social setting. 

Language chats are not a class but are instead a fun way for students to strengthen their language skills and meet other practiced speakers. 

This spring we are excited to offer language chats in: French, Hindi, Mandarin, Russian, and Spanish. Learn more and register for a chat in advance through this link.

Would you like to participate in a language chat that we are not offering this semester? E-mail us at! 

All participants should have at least basic conversational proficiency in the language of the chat they attend.

Participate in Language Chats

This spring we are excited to offer language chats in: French, Hindi, Mandarin, Russian, and Spanish. Learn more and register for a chat in advance through this link.

All participants should have at least a basic conversational proficiency in the language of the chat they attend. While participants do not need to attend every session, we ask that you register in advance for those sessions you plan to attend.

Please note: 

Sometimes our facilitators are late or have an unexpected conflict that prevents them from attending chats. When / if this happens, we encourage you to engage one another and discuss topics of interest in the target language.

We encourage you to use the icebreaker questions below - or your own - to help get the conversation flowing!

Facilitate a Language Chat

Language Chat Facilitators lead informal conversations in a specified language among small groups of interested students. Facilitators commit to a scheduled weekly or biweekly meeting time and are responsible for leading the chats for the entire semester. 

We are currently looking for students to volunteer as facilitators for our spring 2024 language chats.  Interested in volunteering? Please fill out this survey.

Leading a language chat is a great way to practice facilitating discussion and gain hands-on experience with language learning. It is also a great opportunity to meet people from other schools with similar interests and explore the language and culture together!

Facilitators are provided with resources and guidance to help them create an environment for informal learning, linguistic conversation, and cultural exchange.

Requirements and Expectations

Language facilitators should have native or advanced, near-native fluency in the chosen language. Once the facilitator commits to a scheduled time and day for the semester, they are responsible for the chat for the whole semester.

Since these are informal sessions, the chat facilitators are not required to prepare lesson plans. However, especially if most chat participants have beginner-level proficiency, we encourage the facilitator to brainstorm some topics for each session as well as key phrases or idioms that might be covered in a first-year language course. 

Language chats run once a week or once every other week depending on the facilitator's availability. Each session lasts for one hour. If a conflict arises, facilitators are responsible for contacting us at least one week in advance so we can notify participants and/or make alternative arrangements. 

Icebreaker Questions
  • What is your most used emoji? Why do you think that is? 
  • Would you rather have invisibility or flight as a superpower?
  • Cats or dogs?
  • Would you rather be invisible or be able to read minds?
  • If you could be an animal, what animal would you be and why?
  • If you could bring back any fashion trend what would it be?
  • What’s your best scary story?
  • If you had 25 hours a day, how would you use your extra time?
  • If you could commit any crime and get away with it what would you choose and why?
  • How would you spend a million dollars? How about a billion?
  • If you could be any supernatural creature, what would you be and why?
  • If you could change places with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
  • If you could kill any fashion trend forever what would it be?
  • If you had to delete all but three apps from your smartphone, which ones would you keep?
  • What skill do you think everyone should have?
  • What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
  • What is your favorite item you've bought this year?
  • What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
  • If you could be guaranteed one thing in life (besides money), what would it be?
  • Would you rather lose all of your money or all of your pictures?
  • Would you rather be the funniest or smartest person in the room?
  • If you could pick up a new skill in an instant what would it be?
  • What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard?
  • What is your absolute dream job?
  • How would your friends describe you?
  • What would you like to be known/remembered for?
  • What sport would you compete in if you were in the Olympics?
  • Do you collect anything?
  • If you could instantly become an expert in something, what would it be?
  • What is your favorite time of  day and why?
  • If you could live anywhere on this planet, where would you choose to live?
  • If extraterrestrials landed on earth and offered to take you with them, would you go?
  • If you could go to Mars, would you? Why or why not?
  • If you could have the power of teleportation right now, where would you go and why?
  • Would you rather live in the ocean or on the moon?
  • If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you want to have with you?
  • What’s your favorite place you’ve ever visited?
  • What is your favorite season of the year and why?
  • What is your favorite holiday and why?
  • What’s your favorite place of all the places you’ve travelled?
  • If you could meet any historical figure, who would you choose and why?
  • What is the meaning of your name?
  • As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  • If you had a time machine, would go back in time or into the future?
  • What was the first thing you bought with your own money?
  • What’s your favorite family tradition?
  • Who had the most influence on you growing up?
  • What’s your earliest memory?
  • If you had to lose all your memories which one would want to lose last?
  • If you could choose any historical figure to be your imaginary friend, who would it be and why?
  • If you could hang out with any cartoon character, who would you choose and why?
  • If you could add a word to the dictionary what would you add and what would it mean?
  • If you could choose your age forever, what age would you choose and why?
  • If you were to change your name, what name would you change to and why?
  • If you could meet any living person for dinner, who would you pick and why?
Culture Chats

Are you an international student new to Penn? Interested in learning more about cultural practices in the U.S.? We offer free lunchtime sessions each summer on a variety of topics related to transitioning to life at Penn and in the United States.

Recent topics include: Making friends and forming relationships; Small talk and effective communication; and Penn and Philadelphia traditions. 

Join us for fun and conversation for all sessions, or just attend those more relevant for you. Please check our events page for upcoming sessions and be sure to register in advance. Refreshments provided for those who register in advance. .

Advanced English Language Lessons

The Grad Center offers a non-credit Advanced English Lessons, in partnership with the Penn Teaching English to Students of Other Languages (TESOL) program.  Advanced lessons are appropriate for students whose native language is not English. The lessons will build control of advanced grammatical structures, develops ability to communicate by using various forms of expressions in different environments and discover the American culture.

Advanced registration is required, space is limited. Be sure to check our events page for upcoming sessions. 

Additional Language Programs at Penn

There are a number of opportunities to practice your language skills at Penn.

  • Gregory Modern Languages House sponsors Chinese, Italian, French and German language conversation groups.

  • La Casa Latina often sponsors a Spanish Language Chat.

  • Check out the many student groups on campus. If any of them are cultural or language-based, you may find opportunities to practice your language skills.

  • Penn's English Language Programs (ELP) offers fee-based English language instruction and peer-to-peer language chat opportunities. Keep an eye on their website and social media for upcoming opportunities! 

  • ELP also offers workshops specifically for graduate and professional students. These sessions include writing and pronunciation workshops that open to students for a fee.   

  • Penn GSE offers the PEDAL program which stands for Practical English for Daily Living. The PEDAL program offers free English classes for adult English language learners anywhere in the world and is available both virtually online and in person.

  • Do you have children or spouses/partners that you would like to attend the lessons? The Family Resource Center provides English language lessons for Family Center members, where your family can enjoy the play center with adult supervision. Check their events calendar and social media accounts for upcoming lessons!   

  • Keep an eye out for other free programs on campus and in your neighborhood. Sometimes the Graduate School of Education English as a Second Language Program offers free instruction, or churches and charity organizations may offer language help in your neighborhood.

On Your Own Language Programs
  • Mango Languages
    Mango uses semantic mapping to help you learn languages through conversations, movies, and other exercises. Access Mango Languages with your Pennkey and password.

  • Duolingo
    Learn a language by translating webpages. Duolingo provides free language courses; you provide the web with translations while you learn.

  • BBC Languages
    BBC Languages offers courses, interactive videos, pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, and exercises. Listen to the BBC World Service news in 27 languages.

  • Visual Link Languages - Learn a Language
    Created by the U.S. Institute of Language, Visual Link courses offers free language lessons, games, vocabulary, and cultural information.

  • See additional language learning resources from Penn Libraries.