Around my tenth birthday, my mother noticed that I did a pretty good job of mimicking a French accent when I heard it on the radio or on television. The next thing I knew I was being shipped off from my home in Illinois to Lac du Bois, a French camp in the North Woods of Minnesota (a program offered by Concordia Language Villages). I arrived not understanding a word of the language, but with the ability to sound like Pepé Le Pew, a Gallic skunk from the cartoons of my youth. After two weeks of eating, sleeping and breathing in French, I was hooked.
“Language” is our middle name, but the real point of what we do as teachers and counselors at the Villages is to make villagers aware of themselves and their cultures, and then help them begin to grow into global citizens who are capable of deep other-awareness. That happens through language cultural immersion where language learning is the vehicle to explore new experiences, to expand your knowledge of the world, and to have fun.
When I talk about Concordia Language Villages to parents, teachers and others, some ask why they should send a family member or student to northern Minnesota to spend one, two or four weeks surrounded by another language. They wonder why learners shouldn’t go abroad for truly authentic experiences in the language and culture. After all, the price tag might not be so different – and aren’t the Language Villages just offering a pretend version of life in another country anyway? Some may even remember that our motto used to be “the next best thing to being there!”
I’ve been attending the UN Climate Conference in Paris. It’s a whirlwind of people, places, ideas and attending events. I can’t help but think of all the simulation games we do at CLV: Global Summit negotiations at International Day or other role-playing activities that are an effective learning strategy. It is powerful when kids can put themselves in the place of another and experience a different perspective.
International Education Week is an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. This joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education is part of our efforts to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences in the United States.