A group of students at North Georgia College & State University will spend a month on campus, walking, talking, living and breathing Chinese — or Arabic, Russian or Spanish, as the case may be.
The school is hosting its third Summer Language Institute, an intensive language immersion program that offers students the opportunity to learn the equivalent of two semesters of a foreign language in just a few weeks.
Chris Jespersen, dean of the School of Arts and Letters, said the program is a great way to teach students languages that can be difficult to learn. Without the distractions of other courses or extracurricular activities, students can focus on learning to speak their language of choice.
"The students really enjoy the opportunity to just do the language study," Jespersen said. "That's all they do. They have to live on campus. They're there seven days a week for the duration of the program. We don't allow them to work or live off campus."
All of the languages offered this summer, except Spanish, are designated as strategic languages by the U.S. Department of Defense.
The program begins June 21 and ends July 30, Jespersen said.
Capt. William Cabaniss of North Georgia College & State University said the military encourages proficiency in strategic languages, or those that have been designated as important for the long-term goals of the United States.
"In the last 10 years especially, the importance of foreign language has become more and more pronounced, especially for those in the military. That has been highlighted by the current actions we're conducting in Iraq and Afghanistan," Cabaniss said. "Certain strategic languages of countries we know we're going to have long-term habitual relationships with greatly help us to communicate our intentions to the native people, especially in some cultures where literacy rates may not be that great."
Cabaniss said there is also a financial incentive for students looking to commission.
"They can get $750 per class they pass," Cabaniss said.
Jespersen said Russian, Arabic and Chinese are all strategic languages.
"They're taking classes all day long, they do drills and tutoring and instructional time during the afternoon," Jespersen said. "They live together by language, they have tutors who live with them as well."
The students also get to have experiences out of the classroom. Jespersen said last summer, they took field trips to "heritage communities" in Atlanta. For example, the Chinese instructor sent her students on a scavenger hunt.
"She dropped them off at a Chinese market and gave them a list of stuff they had to find," Jespersen said.
Many students in the summer language institute go on to continue their language studies and participate in the college's study abroad and exchange programs once they see the success they can have learning a challenging language in the intensive summer program.
"The summer institutes are really part of a larger programmatic development," Jespersen said. "We've decided to add minors in all the languages, and we're going to add a major in Chinese starting next year."