More About Speaking Freely


In Spring 1996, President Oliva proposed that NYU develop informal, non-credit, no-cost language instruction for students who want to acquire some practical communication skills in a foreign language apart from the fulfillment of degree requirements. Meetings were held, out of which emerged “NYU Speaking Freely,” a program of language coaching that premiered on campus during the Fall 1996 semester.

Administered by the Associate Dean for Students Office in the College of Arts and Science, “NYU Speaking Freely” was an instant success as undergraduate students from all divisions in the University registered for one of the nine languages then offered and participated for ten sessions throughout the semester. In its first year, language coaching was available in French, Spanish, and Italian (to support NYU’s study abroad programs that were then in existence), as well as in German, Swahili, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Hebrew. In addition to its popularity on the NYU campus, the program quickly attracted national attention (see The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 22, 1996, A35; The New York Times, December 10, 1997).

Faculty and other language experts on campus have worked together since the beginning to develop the Program and recruit and train the language coaches who are, whenever possible, selected from among graduate students in our language departments. The coaches conduct weekly group sessions at convenient hours in the resident halls, the College Learning Center (in Weinstein Hall), the Bronfman Center, the King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center, and numerous other locations around the campus. Coaches are also available outside of the meeting times to assist students. Students have access to the latest language software, websites, and video packages, and additional cultural activities are planned at various sites in New York City.

As interest in “NYU Speaking Freely” has grown, the number of languages and the number of sessions for many of the languages has also increased in order to meet overwhelming student interest in these languages. There are currently 18 languages being offered to NYU students each semester. Since the inception of the program, 37,235 students and staff have registered for “NYU Speaking Freely.”


“NYU Speaking Freely,” based on the philosophy that language is a key to a culture, aims to:

  • help students improve their foreign language skills

  • promote an understanding of other cultures and global issues

  • encourage students to study abroad, especially through NYU programs and exchanges

  • foster language study through these informal sessions, as well as through credit-bearing courses, in an effort to counter a national trend away from language learning