Sunday, August 1, 2010

Native Exchange Students

By Sean Scarpiello

Middlebury Language Schools, located in a small town in Vermont, can teach anyone about two years of a language in only nine weeks. The general concept seems interesting, but does the program seem like a prudent investment?

The idea of cramming two years of instruction into nine weeks sounds difficult, but made even more demanding considering a foreign language is the subject matter. Language is all around us, and this program takes total advantage of that opportunity. By making students pledge to use only their new language, students are dropped into a different country where practically everything except street signs and food labels are recognizable in students’ native language. The effect is ultimately acting as a foreign exchange student in your own country. The complete transformation of language is pivotal in such an accelerated learning process. Another benefit the program utilizes is keeping class time to a minimum and maximizing time with everyday activities such as sports and personal conversation. My friend Carlos, an exchange student from Spain, claims he had learned more of the English language from soccer practice as compared to his actual classes in school. This is merely because conversations were on the interests of any teenage male, thus lacking the classroom pressure and boredom. The language camp is smart for utilizing the use of personal interests as the everyday life of each student.

The problem with the language camp is that the target market for the program is mostly high school and college students looking to get an edge in their new school year or next occupation. From a parent’s perspective, it would be quite difficult to send a child to go learn a language for nine weeks out of their summer. Nine weeks is rough for the typical social teenager and even rougher on vacations and much needed family time. The bill for the language camp won’t help much either. For just under $10,000 the program is barely economical for parents who will be opening their checkbooks for college soon, if not already. On the contrary, one could actually view this program as a replacement for a full semester of studying abroad. In that case, parents could see their students during the school year and put a credential that drives college admission’s offices crazy. Ultimately, it comes down to the decision to throw down a pretty penny for a program which offers a fast track in learning a new and exciting language which is sure to give anyone an edge in this ever changing world.

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