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Spanish Immersion

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

AMHERST — Forty-seven students drawn from all the campuses in the Five College Consortium and the community are immersed in Spanish during January Term at Hampshire College. Students in Immersion Spanish spend 10 hours a day together, including meals where only Spanish is spoken and watching movies from Spanish-speaking countries. The goal is to learn more about Spanish in three weeks than in a regular semester of part-time classes.

"It's intense," said Caroline Gear, instructor and program director with the Northampton-based International Language Institute, which works with Hampshire in offering the courses. Hampshire and ILI have a two-decades long relationship, with ILI administering Spanish courses taught on the Hampshire campus every semester. This is the 13th year Hampshire has offered Immersion Spanish courses during January.

The partnership fits into the Hampshire curriculum in many ways. Some Hampshire students who take Spanish learn the language in order to do independent research in a Spanish-speaking country for their Division III (or senior) projects. Gear said the "great relationship" between Hampshire and ILI is possible because the institute and the college share a common belief that students learn best when given the freedom and responsibility to play a leading role in shaping the learning process. ILI also emphasizes cross-cultural understanding as well as learning a language.

This year's Immersion Spanish experience includes professors and teaching assistants from six countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Spain. The immersion program gives students exposure to various accents and cultures, Gear said. It also includes events such as a concert by Jose Gonzalez and Banda Criolla and a lecture and music from the Andes by visiting professor Rolando Mecinas.

After completing 120 hours of Spanish this January Term, the 47 students (22 from Hampshire, 14 from Mount Holyoke, four from Amherst, three from Smith, one from UMass and two community members) will hold a "graduation ceremony" of sorts on January 20, receiving certificates of attending and performing skits they have put together in Spanish. [MEDIA ARE WELCOME — 11 a.m. in East Lecture Hall of Franklin Patterson Hall.]

The Immersion Spanish courses at Hampshire during January are also open to community residents, who can complete the 120-hour program for a fee of $750, and a number have done so throughout the years.

Elaine Thomas, director of college communications, 413.559.5482,
Caroline Gear, director of programs of the International Language Institute, 413.586.7569 (ext. 103),



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