French Connection

August 24, 2006
Students who dread taking two years of foreign language classes now have another option. The French Summer Language Institute gives students an opportunity to earn 14 credit hours in the French language in one summer.
David Uber, professor of French, directed the language learning program over the summer with Cathleen Corrie, assistant professor of French.
Six hours a day and five days a week, students met and immersed themselves in the French language and culture. The program uses the Yale University Capretz method of educating with videos, audio and text to teach the language. Each day, students watch videos that tell the story of an American student studying in Paris. They also complete writing exercises, conversation drills, vocabulary activities, tests and quizzes that measure their grasp of the language.
"From start to finish, everything is in French," says Cedar Park senior Brad Rolf, who took the course in 2003.
Students submit applications and interview with Uber before enrolling in the rigorous program. Academic records, motivation and discipline of the student are the factors considered in choosing which students will be admitted. Students also aren't allowed to take any other courses during the summer and are discouraged from having a job or internship.
"It requires a strong commitment to the program," Corrie says. The ideal student is one who plans an intense undergraduate curriculum. Students who plan to go to professional or graduate school frequently get too busy with advanced classes and put off language requirements, which they need to graduate, she says.
"This is a very good way to get the entire language requirement out of the way so it doesn't interfere with regular school year activities and requirements," Corrie says.
The original intensive language program, which taught German, began in the 1980s. The program switched to French a few years later.
Uber and Corrie say experience in the language isn't necessary or a prerequisite for the course.
"It's really designed to take students from day one," Corrie says. However, students shouldn't expect to become completely fluent in the language after going through the program. They should become conversant enough to travel to France and speak with native speakers.
Uber says most students just want to complete their foreign language requirement in one summer.
"Some fall in love with the language and choose to take more courses after the program, or even become French minors and majors. It's very gratifying to see that."
One example is Rolf, who took the course as a way to get all his foreign language credits out of the way in a short amount of time. He described the days as long and exhausting but enjoyed the language so much that he added French as a second major.
He believes most people could be successful in the program if they are willing to work at it.
"All it takes is one day to completely throw you off [and get behind]," Rolf says. "After six hours in class, you really want to veg out, but you have to do the homework."
Students should expect around three hours of homework each night to prepare for the next day, Uber says.
After taking the summer course, Rolf enrolled in two more French classes during the next year and studied abroad at the University of Caen in Normandy, France, in spring 2005. He says his French classes at Baylor prepared him well for living in the country, and he understood more French than he could speak.
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