Finding the right words
The new Language Jumpstart program is a good initiative to offer people in the community a chance to learn languages
In collaboration with the Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, the Lorna Sundberg International Center has recently initiated a new program to encourage members of the University and Charlottesville communities to learn new languages. The program, Language Jumpstart, will offer Spanish and Italian instruction, a total of two Saturday sessions for each language. Each session is approximately three hours. The language instruction will include “everyday phrases, greetings, basic grammar, alphabet phonetics, and much more. Instructors will teach the lessons in short lectures followed by practice in small groups with native speakers. The majority of each lesson will be dedicated to interactive participatory learning to ensure that content is memorable.”
The program is offered at a first-come, first-served basis, and is available for members of the University and Charlottesville communities. The application process involves a $45 dollar fee. Overall, the objective of the program is to introduce members of the University and wider community to different cultures and initiate greater understanding between the local community and the global community.
On the whole, I think the program is a wonderful idea. Understanding a country’s language is often the first step to better understanding its culture. In a society where adherence to misconceptions and stereotypes of different cultures is not unheard of, the program would play an interesting role in breaking down those barriers on a small scale.
For University students, the program can help them decide what language they want to pursue at the University — if it is an option — and lets them “test the waters” so to speak, especially for first and second years. I concede that at the moment, the opportunity is rather limited because only two languages are being offered. Nonetheless, if the program can be expanded — as is expected — to include other languages such as Arabic, Hindi, and Persian, then it can be extremely beneficial. This program can be useful in promoting the wide range of languages offered at the University, especially ones that are less known.
Yet if a non-University individual wants to study a language, does he or she also have the same opportunities to pursue this further outside of Language Jumpstart? In contrast, if students like a specific language via the program, then they can simply enroll in the corresponding class the next semester as a part of their course schedule.
But it is obviously different for those who aren’t students. At the moment, there are some resources available for anyone interested in learning a language more extensively, such as Speak! Language Center and University of Virginia: School of Continuing and Professional Studies. Both places offer a range of language courses, though the price can vary depending on the language. Some of the less common languages are more expensive to learn, and there are fewer available resources. So, while the Language Jumpstart program is a viable option for many, further pursuit of the language may not be.
Nonetheless, the benefits of learning a language are extensive, especially in a society that is becoming increasingly diverse. There are professional benefits to speaking more than one language. Be it business or the medical profession, knowing more languages allows for greater communication with clients, and allows an individual to appeal to a broader array of people.
In addition, being multilingual has positive effects on the human brain. Multilingualism allows the brain to have greater cognitive functioning; people are better able to separate important and unimportant details in a situation. Furthermore, research has indicated that multilingualism can delay the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. However, in order to receive the full benefits of multilingualism, a person has to use the other language or languages regularly.
Many are often hesitant about pursuing another language because it is not an easy task. It does take a lot of time and effort, and occasionally it can be frustrating. But the benefits are wide ranging. The Language Jumpstart program does not obligate a participant to continue learning the language, so try a language and see if it holds your interest. If not, try another language. The program is really a great first step in connecting with all types of people and cultures.
Fariha Kabir’s column appears Thursdays in The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org._