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The German Summer Language Institute at the University of Virginia

The Summer Language Institute (SLI) provides students from various institutions and diverse academic and professional backgrounds the opportunity to study, experience, and use a new language. Through intensive work in the second language, participants in the SLI develop intermediate level communication skills and earn twelve college credits. University of Virginia undergraduates as well as undergraduates from other post-secondary institutions are able to complete their foreign language requirement in one summer. Graduate students attain the level of second language proficiency needed for their research. High school students earn transferable credits before matriculating in an undergraduate program. Some participants enroll in an SLI program for professional development, and many participants cite personal enrichment as a reason for joining the SLI. Interest in the language, fulfillment of a foreign language requirement, professional development, and travel were the most commonly identified reasons for studying in an SLI program in 2001. Seventy-three percent of the participants in the SLI 2001 expressed a desire to continue their language study.

Every summer, the Summer Language Institute offers German Professor William (“Bill”) McDonald, one of the original founders of the SLI, is the director and main instructor. With the completion of the 9 week course, students acquire intermediate proficiency in German and earn 12 credits, the equivalent of 2 full years of normal language instruction at the unversity level! Completion of the course means that the foreign language requirement at UVA is satisfied.

Why learn German?  While German may no longer be the most popular language among high school students, its status both in the academic community and in the professional world remains unsurpassed.  In the fields of science, the humanities, politics and business, German is becoming more and more indispensible, and proficiency of it has the potential of opening doors to new and previously unconsidered opportunities in life.

Yet it is not just the usefullness of the language which makes it a good choice – you’ll discover how fun and exciting a foreign language can be to learn!  Previous participants in the German summer institute have consistantly rated the experience as one of the most worthwhile and enjoyable of their academic careers.  Professor McDonald, who has a rare gift for motivating students and exciting their interest in learning, always brings boundless energy and enthusiasm to the classroom. He is never afraid to try a new method if it helps his students learn German.

No previous knowledge of German is required for participation in the program.  The program will be structured such that students are constantly being exposed to the language.  Every morning, there will be approximately 3 hours of intensive instruction.  Then students will lunch together accompanied by native speakers and/or advanced graduate students, who will encourage the constant use of the language.  After the lunch break, there will be several more hours instruction and cultural immersion.  In past years, students have had the opportunity to read texts of their own choice in small groups during certain sessions of the afternoon.  In the 1999 German institute, for instance, students read selections from Grimm’s Fairy Tales, passages from Immanuel Kant’s Metaphysik der Sitten, and parts of Franz Kafka’s Das Urteil, among other works.  After the afternoon session, there will be again be a break for dinner, but students will reconvene every evening at the German House for an hour and a half.  Typically, this evening time has been devoted to games, movies, cultural experiences and studying, all in German.

Approximate dates are 10 June to 10 August.

Housing for students of the German Institute is available on a first-come, first-served basis at the German House, which is under the supervision of a House Director.  This House Director, a graduate student with native fluency in German, encourages the constant use of German and is responsible for the evening sessions.  Students who have questions can always turn to the House Director for help.  The German House is located just off grounds, a 5-minute walk to Cabell Hall, where all morning and afternoon courses meet.  Even though numerous restaurants are located only a 7-minute walk away at the “Corner,” the German House is also equiped with excellent kitchen facilities.

N.B.: Students may register for half the summer only. See the Program Director for details.

Charlottesville is an ideal locale for learning.  The University of Virginia, one of the best institutions of higher learning in the country, is situated in Charlottesville, a city of approximately 30,000 residents.  The city is in the “piedmont” region of the state, nestled in the foothills of the spectacularly beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.  The University, also known for its architecture, was founded by Thomas Jefferson, who is not only responsible for the layout of the grounds and buildings, but also for the idea of the “Academical Village,” in which students and professors live in close proximity to each other.  Jefferson’s celebrated home, Monticello, is nearby.  Within driving distance are Washington, D.C. (2 hours), Richmond (1 hour), the Blue Ridge Parkway, Skyline Drive, and Shenandoah Valley (45 minutes).  The beaches of the Atlantic Ocean are also only 3 hours away by car.

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