Gustavus has a strong language program, offering majors or minors in Swedish, French, Spanish, German, Japanese and Russian and, recently, Chinese. Study abroad participation is traditionally high at Gustavus, partially due to shorter options available during January Interim Experience or summer programs and a strong Center for International & Cultural Education presence on campus. Studying abroad is an effective way to solidify language learning, but opportunities are also available on the Gustavus campus.
The Culpeper Language Center, located on the lower level of Vickner Hall, is quickly becoming a central location where students can integrate a degree of immersion into their domestic study of languages.
The center offers a large array of resources for those studying languages, including print materials such as books, magazines and board games as well as technological resources such as webcams, headsets, video cameras, Bamboo tablets, audio, video, document and image editing software and language specific software. Also available are meeting and video-viewing rooms and DVDs and VHSs. Language tutors for all Gustavus-offered languages are available in the center during scheduled tutoring times.
“Many students don’t see learning a foreign language as important,” Director of the Culpeper Language Center and Adjunct Instructor in Spanish Jeremy Robinson said. “One of the reasons I wanted to go into language is because of the reputation of Americans that we are interested in ourselves and not other [countries]. If we want to be respectful to other countries, it’s important that we learn about them,” he said.
“The importance of language learning is not just an issue of respect,” Robinson said. “It can give students a professional advantage when looking for jobs, help in landing service positions and make traveling easier. Additionally, most language students find personal enjoyment in the activity. To see the world in a new way is something amazing,” he said.
“Only learning the grammatical structure and vocabulary of a language is like learning how a car is made … that is way different from driving a car,” Robinson said.
“We want to help students use their language in an active way,” he said. The center attempts to engage students in their chosen language through the many resources available, and Robinson is continually developing new concepts. He hopes to use the webcams and microphones to pair Gustavus language students with students around the world for language exchanges, and a mud run is in the works for spring 2012.
“Students here love physical activity, so this outreach will combine physical activity with language,” Robinson said.
The mud run will be a race with physical as well as foreign language obstacles to add an untraditional twist.
Culpeper also sponsors contests to explore culture and languages through creative endeavors. Their most recent, the art contest, ended Monday, Nov. 14 and voting is open to the campus community on the Culpeper website until Monday, Nov. 21. The annual film contest begins Dec. 12, 2011. Students can enter a three to five minute video re-enacting or creating a fairy tale in a language other than English. Last year’s winning videos are available on the Culpeper website.
The Culpeper staff has been hosting workshops since last year, as well. Student workers teach the workshops and, though they all relate to foreign languages, they cover a large variety of topics. The most popular have been Foreign Language Board Games, Power of Presentation, Axing Foreign Language Anxiety and Using ANKI to Remember Vocabulary.
“We got our choice of which topic to do for the workshops,” Cheenou Her, junior account major and Culpeper employee said. He taught a workshop about using video games to learn foreign languages earlier this semester and another about marketing languages.
Holly Hoffman, senior psychology major, has worked at Culpeper for all four of her years at Gustavus. “This year, Jeremy has been trying to get more integration,” she said, and sees the workshops as part of that. “It’s fun to pick my own topic and I learned a lot myself from researching.”
Brittany Rogness, sophomore communication studies and management major, has taught “Psychological Benefits of a Language” and “Seeing Things from the Perspective of the Language Teacher” this year. The students teach two classes each semester. “We get to repeat and improve the presentations throughout the year,” Rogness said.
With a wide array of media, education and interaction available, Culpeper is becoming a central language resource on campus.
There are five remaining workshops this semester. Attendees are asked to RSVP on the Culpeper website.