This summer, the University of North Georgia (UNG) is teaching foreign language and culture to students at every grade level, from kindergarten through college, with a variety of camps and programs, including a new Chinese language program for elementary and middle-school students.
Thanks to a $20,000 Freeman Foundation grant through the Institute of International Education, UNG has added a Chinese immersion camp held in partnership with the World Language Academy (WLA), a public, dual-language immersion school in Hall County, Georgia.
"In addition to strengthening an already prosperous collaboration, this opportunity allows UNG to be one of the only institutions in the region to offer a pipeline to language preparation," said Dr. Carlise Womack-Wynne, associate director for UNG's Center for Global Engagement (CGE).
During the regular school year, WLA students in prekindergarten through seventh grade receive half of their instruction in English and half in Spanish in all subjects. They also take courses in Chinese. WLA students are fluent in both English and Spanish by third grade and in Chinese by fifth grade.
The summer program aims to enhance students' understanding of Chinese language and culture and refine their written and spoken language ability. Middle school students attend a residential camp on UNG's Dahlonega Campus and kindergarten through fifth-grade students attend a day camp at WLA. Each grade level receives a minimum of one hour of language instruction per day and an additional 30 minutes of cultural activities. The program also includes authentic social experiences by scheduling programming and activities hosted by native speakers that allow students to expand their cultural understandings of China.
Jason Mizell, a fifth-grade teacher at WLA and camp coordinator, said retention of language skills is the key goal of the summer program.
"It provides kids a safe place to be over the summer, but it also provides a way to avoid students' having language loss over the summer," he said. "So UNG and WLA came up with the idea of having a summer program where they're immersed in language all summer long to help stop that language loss."
Mizell is excited about the success of the camp, which began in 2014 with a Spanish immersion focus and grew out of the existing partnership between UNG and WLA. Both schools share the vision of educating students to be global citizens, which increases career and employment opportunities.
"If we start when they're really young, learning about the language and culture is natural to them," Mizell said. "As they grow, the language skills and cultural knowledge is growing with them. Our end goal is that our students be culturally competent and have those skills so that they can be international citizens. Wherever they go in the world, they can interact with and understand other people."
Each summer, UNG also offers the Federal Service Language Academy, a three- to six-week program for high school students that teaches language and culture in an intensive environment. UNG's Strategic Language Intensive Program for college students aims to help participants develop a level of proficiency in a strategic language and its associated culture that will allow practical application of these skills after graduation.
A 2012 report by the U.S. Department of Education, Succeeding Globally Through International Education and Engagement, highlighted the need to prepare globally competent students, citing economic competitiveness and jobs, global challenges, national security and diplomacy, and a diverse U.S. society.
UNG offers courses in 10 languages, and students can earn a bachelor's degree in modern languages with concentrations in Arabic, Chinese, French, or Spanish. UNG offers global opportunities for students, faculty and staff through a variety of international partnerships, exchanges and study abroad programs. UNG also offers specialized global opportunities for students in the Corps of Cadets, including federally funded programs such as Project Global Officer, Chinese Language Flagship and UNG's Language Training Center.