This May, Luz Ospina, academic assistant, Department of Modern Languages, will accompany 11 University of Lethbridge students as they immerse themselves in the language and culture of Mexico City as part of the University's pilot Spanish summer immersion program.
"Currently we offer a minor in Spanish, but we are in the process of developing a Spanish major. The six-credit immersion course came about because of that. We were also trying to create a relatively easy and efficient way for students to acquire oral fluency in the language," says Dr. Raquel Trillia, who teaches Spanish in the Modern Languages Department. "Immersion makes it much simpler. It is more natural."
The International Centre for Students (ICS) has played a major role in getting the program off the ground.
"The professors of modern languages came to us with the idea of doing an immersion program and asked for assistance finding a Spanish speaking university," explains Laura Ferguson, co-ordinator, International Programs and Exchange for ICS. "We have a long-standing exchange agreement with the Universidad Panamericana in Mexico City so we were able to use our contacts there and partner with them on the program."
Students, who must complete Spanish 1100 prior to leaving for Mexico City, will spend six weeks living with Mexican families. Monday to Thursday mornings, they will attend Spanish language classes at the university, studying all aspects of learning a language, including pronunciation, conversation, reading and writing. In the afternoons, they will be involved in various activities that will expose them to Mexican culture, art and history. They will also participate in guided field trips to enrich the cultural experience. The great bonus is that students will be continually immersed in the language: shopping, cooking, interacting with their hosts and learning about the culture through everyday experience.
"I would expect that the workload will be intense; they will be required to write papers and do presentations, and from that the students should achieve greater oral proficiency," says Trillia. "Students who come back to our classrooms having lived this experience are going to enrich our Spanish program. We are hopeful that this program will be successful and that we will be able to continue to run it in the future."
Evelyn Peters is one of the 11 students going to Mexico City.
"This is an awesome opportunity to learn the Spanish language hands-on. I expect to pick up the language much more quickly and have a better understanding of, not only the language, but also the culture," she says. "I plan to graduate with a BEd in Modern Languages. I will feel much better equipped to do this after spending time immersed in the language. I am very grateful for this opportunity. Vamos a Mexico!"