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NerdScholar Favorites: Summer Language Programs

Feb. 24, 2014
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The best way to learn a language is total immersion, where students are speaking, reading, writing—even dreaming—in a foreign language. Immersion doesn’t just generate faster language acquisition, but can actually prompt adults to process a language the same way that native speakers do, The New York Times reports. But unless students are studying abroad, language immersion can be difficult to replicate. During the traditional academic year, students usually spend a mere three hours weekly in language class, and they must prioritize outside language practice among their many obligations. That’s where summer language programs come in.

Summer language programs offer students a unique opportunity to focus solely on the language of their choice without comprising the rest of their social or academic responsibilities. Most programs encourage students to speak in the given language outside of class, which optimizes classroom time and maximizes language retention.

To highlight a few of our favorite summer language programs, NerdScholar has compiled a list of programs offered at universities and colleges. Whether students want to fulfill their language requirement, prepare for study abroad, or finally watch a foreign film without the subtitles, these programs will help them say “,” “oui, oui” and everything in between.


Beloit CollegeBest Faculty Ratio

Beloit offers four or eight-week long summer courses for critical-need languages—Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Russian—through their Center for Language Studies (CLS). The program boasts an impressive 4:1 student to teacher ratio, with classes that average about eight students. But for CLS students, time outside of the classroom is equally important in the learning process. Students dine, sleep, and relax with fellow language learners, giving students an opportunity to exercise their skills around the clock. “What sets CLS students apart is that, for the past 31 years, we have challenged students to learn a new language while also cultivating life-long personal and professional relationships,” says Dan Perusich, director of summer programs. “In addition to 20 hours of classroom instruction per week, students interact with faculty and peers after hours. Add to that international dinners, excursions, and activities and it becomes a one-of-a-kind experience.”


The University of WashingtonMost Inclusive

The University of Washington offers one of the nation’s largest summer language programs, with 13 different intensive language courses being offered in summer 2014. Students spend nine weeks learning their language of choice with the option to enroll in a first, second, or third-year intensive course. At the end of the program students will have completed 15 credits or one year of foreign language. “Students meet for class Mondays through Fridays for about 3.5 hours, where they learn in a highly interactive, communicative environment, and spend several hours in the afternoon learning vocabulary and completing homework,” says Britta Simon, director of summer quarter. “The results are immediate and impressive: at the end of summer quarter, intensive language course graduates will be able to aptly conduct basic conversations in a foreign language.”


Indiana UniversityMost Diverse

For students looking to expand their repertoire beyond the romance languages, Indiana University’s Summer Language Workshop offers unique language courses, including Mongolian, Tatar, and Uzbek. Students attend roughly 20 hours of instruction each week for eight or nine weeks, which earns them one year of language credit. After morning classes, students are expected to attend language table or cultural activities in the afternoon and complete two to four hours of homework each night. Though students are not required to live on campus, IU offers on-campus housing organized by language. “The workshop fosters a unique learning environment dedicated to intensive language and culture instruction,” says Ariann Stern-Gottschalk, director of the Summer Language Workshop. “Food tastings, film screenings, concerts, poetry readings, and live radio broadcasts are just a few of the ways that workshop participants go beyond the classroom and build lasting memories during their summer in Bloomington.”


Bryn Mawr CollegeBest Russian Program

Bryn Mawr’s Russian Language Institute (RLI) hosts a four and eight-week summer program that accommodates Russian language students of all levels. The full eight-week program accounts for two units, or one year of language class. All courses are team-taught and consist of three major components: master classes (presentation of new material), drill sessions (language activation), and situational training (role-playing and stimulations). Bryn Mawr upholds a strict “Russian Only” rule during their summer program and students are strongly encouraged to reside in campus dorms during the summer. Commuting students are expected to eat lunch with fellow students and remain on campus from 9:00a.m. to 5:30p.m. In addition to classroom instruction, the RLI offers cultural activities such as Russian food sampling or field trips to Russian Orthodox churches and concerts. “Our eight-week Russian Language Institute offers students highly focused language courses, extensive interaction with Russia’s rich culture, and a study environment extremely conducive to rapid development,” says Tim Harte, chair of the Russian department.


University of North GeorgiaMost Immersive

The University of North Georgia’s Summer Language Institute (SLI) offers Arabic, Chinese, Korean, and Russian courses. Students must live on campus for the duration of the five-and-a-half week program, which schedules classes, meals, and activities from 8am to 8pm Monday through Saturday, with a half-day on Sunday. The program’s activities challenge students through substantial interaction with native-speaking faculty and assistants. “SLI allows [students] to experience many aspects of a language or culture that they would be unable to do in a traditional program,” says Dr. Brian Mann, head of the Division of World Languages & Cultures. “Many never thought they would be interested in languages, but once they see that they can learn a language, they choose to change their major to languages or international affairs.”


Millersville UniversityBest Program for Language Teachers

Millersville’s Summer Graduate Institutes in French, German, and Spanish improve language proficiency, as well as language instruction. Most students in the program are high school teachers working toward their master’s degree, aiming to achieve permanent certification in the language of their choice. All students in the program must observe the “no-English” rule, both in and outside of the classroom. “A total immersion experience is offered that features coursework in linguistics, literature, civilization, history and the fine arts,” says Leroy Hopkins, chair of Foreign Languages. “Classroom work, however, is just a segment of the summer experience at Millersville. Participants who can stay on campus also participate in the many extracurricular activities available.” The normal course load for students is six credits, which means that the average student can earn a master’s degree in three to five summers.

Note: Superlatives, noted in green, are inclusive of the group of schools listed in this article only.

Language student image courtesy of Shutterstock.