Little Italies and Tastes of Japan Immerse Students in Foreign Language Communities

Posted: May 18, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By B.J. Koubaroulis

Italian flag

Little Italies and Tastes of Japan are two separate eight-week summer courses aimed at helping students, with little or no exposure to Italian or Japanese, complete their foreign language requirement in one summer.

In these immersion programs, students learn basic language skills during class meetings, lunch conversation hours and excursions. The combination of intensive classroom meetings and immersion into the Italian-American and Japanese-American communities of the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore area covers the elementary and intermediate course work for these languages, which is the equivalent of nine credits.

In addition to class work, Little Italies (ITAL 110 and 210) offers lunch conversation hours, which are daily authentic Italian lunches that expose students to foods from diverse regions of Italy. The lunch conversation hour reinforces classroom material while giving students the opportunity to spontaneously speak the language in an informal gathering.

“The reason we add on the lunch-hour conversations and the cultural excursions is to show students how they can integrate Italian into the local community,” says Italian Program Coordinator Kristina Olson. “It’s a way of showing them how they can take what they’re learning inside the classroom about Italian culture and Italian-American culture and apply it to different venues.”

Excursions include trips to Baltimore’s Little Italy – a tradition-rich area nestled between the inner harbor and historic Fells Point. There will be trips to Italian-American cultural events in Washington, such as the Festa Italiana, and tours of the Italian Embassy and Italian collections in the National Gallery of Art.

Students will also have the option to extend the eight-week language program with a one-week field trip to Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York, three Northeast cities with historic Little Italies. This optional one-credit course gives students the opportunity to integrate their knowledge of Italian language and culture with exposure to thriving Italian-American communities.

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Tastes of Japan (JAPA 110 and 210) uses a multimedia approach, presents guest speakers and takes advantage of the abundant cultural resources and facilities available in the communities around Mason. Students also engage in a catered authentic Japanese lunch-hour meal twice a week. There are also excursions. Students will also learn to read and write Japanese characters (hiragana and katakana).

“Of course, language is important to communicate with people,” says Manako Fujiwara, Tastes of Japan director. “But without knowledge of the culture it’s more abstract and it’s harder to grasp. This program offers a chance to learn culture and language simultaneously.”

This article originally appeared in a slightly different format on the College of Humanities and Social Sciences web site.

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