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Summer Language Institute marks 10 years of expanding language and cultural understanding

SLI Arabic
More than 100 students are at UNG this summer to study one of five languages during the intensive, six-week Summer Language Institute.

This summer, 105 students from across the nation will spend six weeks at University of North Georgia (UNG) to learn Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or Russian in the Summer Language Institute (SLI), an intensive, immersive program.

For some, the program is a means to satisfy core curriculum requirements, but for others it represents the first step to traveling the world studying multiple languages.

Christopher Anderson, of Villa Rica, Georgia, studied Chinese in the SLI program in 2015 and earned his bachelor's degree in Spanish in May. He also minored in Russian.

"I wanted to learn multiple languages throughout college, and the opportunity to take so much Chinese in less than two months was appealing to me," said Anderson, who will be an SLI tutor this summer. "It was extremely difficult, but so much fun. I enjoy encouraging others to press on in a difficult language. It’s so easy to give up, but if you keep on and get past that initial difficulty in the language, it is extremely fun and useful."

Anderson leaves for a mission trip to Colombia after the SLI program ends.

Now in its 10th year, SLI students learn one year's worth of language, allowing them to earn eight credit hours upon successful completion of the program. Students live in residence halls on UNG's Dahlonega Campus and spend most of the day in the classroom as opposed to the three to five hours of classroom instruction and lab in a traditional course. Even weekends are not completely free.

Dr. Chris Jespersen, dean of the College of Arts and Letters at UNG, said talented faculty and motivated students have made the program a success.

"A decade after starting our first SLI is a good time to reflect on the program’s growth and success," Jespersen said. "We added Japanese for the first time this year, giving us five languages and more than 100 students. Over the years, two keys have been hiring talented, highly capable faculty and recruiting motivated and enthusiastic students. That combination has allowed the Summer Language Institutes to prosper and start so many students on exciting and dynamic career paths."

Elijah Hendrix, a cadet from Dawsonville, Georgia, majoring in international affairs, went through SLI in 2016 and will be a tutor in Russian this summer. He pursued SLI to get ahead in his courses and potentially graduate early, but developed a love for the language in the process.

"During the intensive six weeks, I was able to gain a solid language foundation in Russian, which allowed me to continue studying the language," Hendrix said. "It also gave me the opportunity to study abroad multiple times."

Hendrix, who plans to graduate in May 2020, would like to work in a government agency that deals with foreign relations, such as CIA, NSA or the U.S. State Department.

SLI Bennett
Dwight Bennett Jr., a cadet majoring in Arabic and former SLI student, serves as a tutor this summer at SLI.

Dwight Bennett Jr., a cadet from Stockbridge, Georgia, majoring in Arabic, also hopes to use his global understanding in the military. He plans to graduate in May 2019 and commission into the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant and hopes to become either an aviation officer or a military intelligence officer. He went through SLI two years ago and returns this year as a tutor.

"I feel the best way to learn something or reinforce something is to teach it. Studying Arabic also has become a passion of mine, so I feel that being a tutor gives me the opportunity to share that with others," Bennett said. "Being an SLI tutor will allow me to see what being a language learner is like from the other side. And coming near the end of my college career, this should be a great tool to help me learn more about myself and others from an educational perspective."

Among those Bennett will tutor this summer are dual-enrolled high school students whose tuition is paid thanks to a grant from the Qatar Foundation International LLC (QFI). Last year, QFI only awarded the grant to five institutions. Additionally, some 80 percent of those attending SLI this summer are funded through the Project Global Officer (GO) grant. Also in its 10th year at UNG, Project GO grants fund domestic and overseas experiences for cadets studying critical languages. 

This summer's SLI started June 18 and continues through July 29. Students must be accepted to UNG, either as dual-enrollment students, incoming freshmen, transfer students, or cadets. At the end of the six-week program, students are tested on their new language skills by the Oral Proficiency Interview — computer (OPIc), an internet-delivered test that provides reliable oral proficiency.

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