In a matter of weeks, high school and college students are learning language skills at the University of North Georgia (UNG) that would take months to learn through normal fall or spring semester courses.
This summer, UNG is piloting an Accel program in language and culture; typically, dual-enrollment programs are not offered during the summer. The residential program – also not typical of Accel programs – puts high school students in classes with college students enrolled in the Summer Language Institute (SLI). Together, they are immersed in a cultural experience that builds foreign language proficiency at a highly accelerated rate.
"This year, we see the continued development of our summer language programs as SLI is offered for a seventh time and we'd like to offer the Accel program again next summer," said Dr. Chris Jespersen, dean of UNG's College of Arts & Letters. "The success of these exciting, dynamic, and rigorous language programs demonstrates the need for such programs and manifests the interest that exists from students of all ages."
In addition to supporting UNG's mission of developing globally-competent citizens, the programs also support Complete College Georgia. The initiative was launched in 2011 by Gov. Nathan Deal to increase the percentage of Georgia's population with some level of college completion to 60 percent by the year 2020 to meet projected workforce needs.
Dr. Chaudron Gille, UNG's associate vice president for university affairs and academic services, said dual enrollment programs like Accel that grant both high school and college credit can shorten the time it takes for a student earn a college degree, one of several strategies identified in Complete College Georgia.
"Allowing high school students to take college courses that also satisfy their high school graduation requirements gives them a head start on their college degree without them having to pay tuition or have it count against their HOPE scholarship," Gille said. "A student who begins taking Accel courses in their junior year could enter college as a sophomore, saving a year of time and tuition."
According to Gille, Accel addresses three of the five key strategies created by the University System of Georgia as part of Complete College Georgia: enhancing partnerships with secondary schools, improving postsecondary access and completion, and improving the time required to earn a degree.
Students in the Accel Language Institute take immersive courses seven days a week.
"I think the Accel programming is both easy and hard at the same time," said Julian Steward, who is currently attending Lumpkin County High School and is taking Chinese in UNG's pilot Accel program. "We are learning about a week's worth of material every day. I feel I will walk away with better study habits and an idea of what I want to do with my life."
SLI, which offers eight college credits, is for students interested in careers where understanding a strategic language and culture is critical, such as the FBI, CIA and U.S. State Department.
"Compared to normal semester courses, SLI is about 10 times more intense," said UNG student Darion Gibson, also in the summer Chinese course. "On top of the accelerated learning, we have more time to interact with the teachers and are able to grasp the concept of Chinese culture and history. Though it can be intimidating at times, it is extremely effective in helping us to learn the language and study skills. I think the program can prepare incoming freshmen and other college students extremely well for higher level language classes."
Chi-Hsuan Catterson, lecturer of Chinese at UNG, said that many students have changed their majors to a foreign language after attending SLI.
"The ultimate goal of learning a foreign language is to be able to use that language for communication," Catterson said. "One of the most effective ways to reach this goal is to put the students in an environment where they are exposed to the language constantly. Our students are learning and using Chinese in the classroom, language lab, dining hall, and their dorm rooms at least 12 hours a day on weekdays. On weekends, we take them to Chinese restaurants and stores, play games focusing on the language use and culture, cook Chinese food, and watch Chinese movies."