Concordia College is one of the Language Training Centers (LTC) across the country funded by the Defense Language and National Security Education Office and administered by the Institute of International Education.
The Concordia LTC was established in 2016 in collaboration with the 300th MI BDE of the Utah National Guard. Since then, additional partners have been added. Concordia’s LTC, through its Concordia Language Villages, has been offering residential iso-immersion sessions in a variety of critical languages. For the 2023-24 LTC grant year, immersion sessions in the following languages will be offered: Arabic (MSA), Chinese/Mandarin, French, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Ukrainian.
At Concordia Language Villages, our approach to language teaching puts learners into a grand simulation which includes the need to apply the target language via context-based situated learning and being surrounded by meaningful elements of a culturally authentic setting.
Given the iso-immersion design of the residential Concordia LTC program, participants focus on learning from breakfast until bedtime, away from distractions of daily life, surrounded by an instructional team of native speakers and others who are highly proficient in the language. The instructor to learner ratio is 1:3, providing for non-stop opportunities to engage and find support in the learning process.
Concordia Language Villages has provided customized training for soldiers of the U.S. Army since 2006 and has yielded remarkable and faster proficiency gains in language acquisition and building cultural competencies. These immersion training courses are only available to individuals associated with units of the U.S. Department of Defense. For the 2023-24 grant year, Concordia College’s Language Training Center partners include the 300 MI BDE of the Utah National Guard, the Sixteenth Air Force (16 AF) of San Antonio, Texas and the 1st Special Forces Command (1SFC) of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Like in other Village immersion experiences, learning at the Language Training Center is based on the six guiding principles outlined in Hamilton, et. al., "Doing Foreign Language" (2005).
The LTC environment is designed to encourage learners to use the target language despite uncertainty. A friendly tone is set from the moment that participants arrive with a culturally authentic welcome in the Village, whether breaking bread and salt at the Russian Language Village, or a cup of tea with sweets at the Arabic LTC. Instructors push students toward fluency in speaking by modeling strategies for effective Village communication in the face of ambiguity, such as talking around unknown concepts, reinforcing meaning with synonyms and politely asking for clarification.
Experience shows that students learn fastest and best when they are intrinsically motivated by interesting content. Student-centered activities in the LTC are threefold. First, instructors take the time to get to know each student and tailor the content to their interests and expertise. Second, students take the lead, sharing responsibility for research and presentation of current socio-cultural topics, with staff available to help them prepare. Each student completes a final project involving self-directed research and creative choices. Finally, students try new things that nudge them out of their comfort zone. Learners are encouraged to engage in self-reflection through journaling and intermittent check-ins with instructional staff.
The LTC is designed to surround learners with authentic language and culture. In language-focused sessions, students engage with contemporary social issues by listening to and reading the voices of people living those issues. At other times of the day, they may learn to make an ethnic dessert, visit a simulated cafe or participate in a session in the banya (sauna), all in the target language. Mealtimes at the Village are not just for nutrition. Participants learn about ways of setting the table, differences in the order in which dishes are served and eaten and culture-specific use of utensils.
Needs-driven interactions occur naturally in the LTC. They must figure out how to express any question or need they have in the target language. This heightens learner interest in designing an utterance that will serve its purpose and provides an incentive for the student to listen very carefully to the response. This move from unnecessary to purposeful communication can be enough to get even the most reticent learners to focus and learn.
Instructional team members use the target language at all times, and the same is expected of participants. We hear from many of the learners at the LTC that the language they learn through experiences in the Village sticks in a way that knowledge acquired for pen-and-paper tests does not.
LTC students take part in creative, learner-designed projects using the target language. Whether preparing for a mock parliamentary debate, pitching a business idea, recording and editing voices for a podcast or producing a poem in Persian, working on a project provides a coherent focus for learners as they work consistently and repeatedly with a manageable range of vocabulary and language functions. Projects also link the use of the target language to other skills. Finally, participating in such projects creates a sense of community rooted in fun, creativity, adventure and excitement about learning.
The focus on cultural immersion in the Concordia LTC setting is, among other ways, realized through simulated settings, scenarios, role plays, analysis of authentic materials and informal and formal social engagement with native speakers. As such, cultural immersion impacts understanding the application of language in the context within which it is used. That cultural understanding, in turn, gives language significance in the real world.
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In addition to obtaining a certificate for training hours completed through a Concordia LTC session, students may register separately to earn either three or four Concordia College credits. These credits carry an additional fee and require submission of additional written work in the target language while enrolled in the course. Written work includes three or four short (two pages) polished discussions of topics studied in the course, and regular, less formal reflections on your cultural learning.
The LTC Webinar Series is offered with support from the Defense Language and National Security Education Office and aimed at LTC instructors and Department of Defense-affiliated language training professionals. Each webinar offers training on current research and best practice relevant to design and implementation of impactful programs for professional language learners.
Dr. Jordi Etienne Teillard-Cui and Dr. Anke Noha Al-Bataineh
Dr. Cassandra Glynn
Jennifer Charlotte Speir
Dr. Matthew Chovanek
Dr. Alexander Arguelles
Our caring, professional staff at our Language Training Center come from the U.S. and abroad, and they love to share their traditions.
Martin Graefe is the senior group director and director for the Concordia Language Training Center of Concordia Language Villages. He has been on staff at Concordia Language Villages since 1991, including eight years as director for year-round programs and ten years as the associate director for operations. Most recently, Martin has focused on advancing the Concordia Language Training Center programs for U.S. government employees, building on the successful partnerships developed with the U.S. Department of Defense. He is a native of Germany and has studied French. Martin received his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Dakota and a master’s degree in business administration from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.
Sara Shams Nimis holds a Ph.D. in Arabic and Islamic Studies from Georgetown University and an M.A. in Political Science from Miami University. Her passion for Arabic-speaking communities, and for promoting understanding across cultures, grew out of years working, studying and traveling in Morocco, Egypt and other parts of the Middle East and North Africa, where she was awarded a graduate diploma in Middle East Studies and an advanced diploma in Arabic language (CASA) at the American University in Cairo. She currently serves as Associate Director for Program, supporting all languages at the Concordia Language Training Center.
Brenda Lund joined the Concordia Language Training Center in October 2021 as Client Services Specialist. Brenda earned a business administration degree from Moorhead State University in Moorhead, Minn., and an M.B.A. in Logistics from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. Prior to returning to Bemidji, she spent seven years working in youth ministry as a department coordinator. Passionate about sharing her knowledge and love of the Bemidji area, Brenda enjoys helping Language Training Center staff and participants make the most of their time in northern Minnesota.
All Concordia LTC programs will be held at the 867-acre Concordia Language Villages campus near Bemidji, Minn., which is comprised of eight architecturally authentic retreat centers, each reflecting the cultures of one of the 18 languages offered by Concordia Language Villages.
Given the fact that the architectural focus of these facilities does not always line up with the target languages/cultures represented by the LTC immersions, any of these facilities might be used for any of the languages.
For more information about LTCs in the United States visit the Department of Defense website.
Are you an educator skilled in critical languages? A miliary veteran experienced in cross-cultural communication? Join our team at the Language Training Center and help prepare others for effective deployment and homeland operations.