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Living and learning languages: Summer FLAS Stories, Part II

August 3, 2009

The summer is slipping away fast, but the activity in the WEST office is certainly picking up as we prepare for a new academic year. In this update, we share a few more stories from our Summer FLAS (Foreign Language Area Scholarship) Fellows.

*Incoming IU Graduate Student Jessica Fox participated in the Summer Dutch Institute hosted here this summer. Below she gives us her take on the program and what she gained from it:

“Three days after returning home after a spring semester exchange program in the Netherlands, I stepped into the classroom for the advanced summer Dutch course at Indiana University. There were many questions in my mind then:

  • What will be the level of difficulty? I had only taken 2 Dutch courses before.
  • What about my classmates? Will they be nearly fluent?
  • How much have I learned (passively and actively) by living in the Netherlands?
  • What is this place called IU and Bloomington? I am an incoming IU graduate student in linguistics this fall and will be calling this place home for more than just the Dutch program.
  • What will I be able to take away from this summer program?

Over the span of the nine week program, all of those queries were addressed. In short, the level of difficulty was adaptable and Esther Ham, our authentic Dutch professor, tailored the course to each student’s varying strengths and areas of improvement. I realized just how much cultural and linguistic input I absorbed during my semester abroad; yet I gained a new word, grammatical lesson, idiom, or song each day of the summer program. Our professor spoke English only when necessary, which is the next best option to total immersion in the native country. Our class enjoyed some enlightening and diverse speakers (including Frederieke Saeijs, one of the Netherlands’ most popular violinists), encountered the Dutch culture and language in weekly film nights, and memorized some catchy Dutch poetry. It was a privilege for the Summer Dutch Institute to be hosted at IU in Bloomington, IN. University and community activity opportunities abounded in our spare time and weekends. This town is an ideal location for a summer program; I enjoyed the quaint downtown area, local eateries and coffee shops, the Bloomington Bicycle Club, and numerous parks in the area (hiking, waterfalls, caves, forests, reservoirs).

On top of the grammar, syntax, pronunciation, and other delights from the summer Dutch program, I am most enthusiastic about reading Dutch literature beyond children’s stories and poetry. The first book I read was written by Kader Abdolah, currently one of the leading authors in the Netherlands. A whole new world of literature has been opened up for me; I have a few books in Dutch in my ‘summer reading crate.’ I anticipate continuing my studies of Dutch (alongside of linguistics) this fall at IU and believe that this summer program gave me a solid foundation to my experiences last spring in the Netherlands. Thank you, FLAS, for your role in making the summer Dutch program possible.”

*IU student Erin Noelliste is studying Norwegian in Oslo, Norway this summer and shares the following thoughts about her Summer FLAS program there:

“I am taking two courses here. The first course is an intensive advanced Norwegian language course taught only in Norwegian. We meet for three hours, five days a week. We have spent a lot of time focusing on grammar, specifically prepositions, which seem to be the bane of any language learner’s existence. In addition to daily assignments and readings, we have a research paper to write in Norwegian. This was a difficult task to complete because I have only had one year of the language, but with the guidance of staff here, I was able to produce an eight page essay. The other course I am taking is Nynorsk (New Norwegian). This is solely a written language composed of various Norwegian dialects. It has been interesting to take this class because Nynorsk is a very essential part of Norway’s sense of national identity. In the class we have studied various dialects and have been able to hear how regional varieties of Norwegian are spoken.

The most amazing cultural experience I have had here was a weekend excursion to a national park where we went hiking. All three of our guides were Norwegian women who spoke only Norwegian with us the entire weekend. The first day we went on a reindeer safari and got to see about 300 reindeer. The next day we went for a seven hour hike along a mountain ridge. The hike challenged me both physically and mentally, especially at the point when we were climbing up rocks at a steep incline where there was nothing but a 600 meter drop below us. I feel this was a truly Norwegian cultural experience because all along the way, we saw families with small children, even babies, out for a weekend of hiking.

The quality of the courses here is quite good, and I feel that I have learned much just from being in the country where the language is spoken. This program is called the “International Summer School,” so I am surrounded by students from all around the world. I have made many friends here and am very happy that I have had this chance to live with people from over 90 different countries. Studying here has helped me to read and understand the language much more quickly, and I know that my research with Norwegian sources will be much easier in the future.”

Dank u and takk deg to Jessica and Erin, for sharing your summer FLAS experiences with us! Coming soon to the WEST Blog: more details about WEST Orientation activities for August 25th – 28th!

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