The Department of Foreign Languages is giving students the opportunity to study languages like Russian and Mandarin Chinese right here on campus – without hiring any new faculty. Instead, as part of the new Dialektos program, classes utilize Web-based technology to converse and study with native speakers and other students as far away as New York.
The program began at Drake University in Iowa, where researchers developed a program for use by the U.S. Government and State Department in language-training facilities around the world, said Dr. Harland Rall, assistant professor of Spanish.
Paul Roggendorff, assistant coordinator for Dialektos, said the program could lead to an increase in the number and variety of language courses at ACU and other universities, a goal that in the past required hiring additional faculty. At this early stage, however, the aim is to measure basic potential.
“For now, our partnership with Drake is just to see if it can be done physically, if it’s physically possible,” Roggendorff said.
The ACU program is in its pilot stage this semester. Students wishing to participate must fulfill certain requirements to be accepted, Roggendorff said.Â Students must be well prepared academically and highly motivated. The program looks more like an independent study than a traditional college class.
Students work through exercises with a student instructor and then use Adobe Connect software to practice conversation with native speakers and language experts with terminal degrees in their field. Students also meet in a language-learning strategies class to address learning methods, answering specific questions that arise as the class progresses.
As many as four students may converse at one time using Adobe Connect software, allowing them to hone their skills as a group, Rall said.
Outsourcing teaching responsibilities using online technology presents logistical issues, like where to send tuition dollars or which university should grant credit hours to students. However, offering languages like Farsi – which only a limited number of experts teach – would greatly increase the potential of the foreign language department, Roggendorff said.
Students often seek to learn an uncommon language to supplement a career, Roggendorff said. Some plan to be missionaries or enter the government or military. Others intend to conduct international business. The ability to cater so specifically to students’ needs makes the department more relevant.
The department offers Spanish, French, German and English as a Second Language, in addition to Arabic, Japanese, Russian and Mandarin Chinese through the Dialektos program this semester.
“This year and next year, I don’t know that we’ll do many more languages,” Rall said. “This is a lot to start out with.”
Students interested in learning a language not offered may petition the department to add it to the curriculum. The petition can be found at http://www.acu.edu/academics/cas/fl/ under the Dialektos tab.
The department will do everything possible to meet the needs of students, Rall said.
“We want to encourage language-learning, and we have our hands full, but if there’s enough demand, we’ll make other languages happen,” Rall said.