For more than 20 years, Liberty University has offered conversational language classes to students and members of the community, helping many to better understand different cultures.
The weekly program currently offers German, Hebrew, Italian and two levels of Spanish, along with a Teaching English as a Second Language course. In the fall, Hindi and Russian classes will begin.
“We really developed the conversational language (classes) because we had a lot of people centering here in this part of Virginia going to missions fields, sometimes short-time missions, people very interested in other cultures,” said Barbara Sherman, Director of the Center for Professional and Continuing Education and Individualized Programs of Study.
She said classes have included students and community members from all age groups, from pre-teens to over 80 years old. The program has become a popular option or homeschoolers.
Different than the traditional language course, students focus less on syntax and grammar and more on becoming familiar with the culture of the language of the country, Sherman said.
“This is just conversation. This is the kind of language you would need, as a tourist for instance, if you really wanted to go and mix with a culture, or if you were going over for a short-term missions trip overseas or if you were going over just to get started on the mission field,” Sherman said. “This gives you sort of a jump-start to understanding the language and knowing the culture.”
Instructors have been immersed in the country’s language they are teaching, many native to the country or having served as missionaries. (The program is seeking Arabic and Chinese teachers, as both have returned to their field.) The teachers allow time for instruction and practice.
“Every class I usually do about 15 minutes of grammar, then a half hour of new vocabulary words or new sentences with at least five minutes of practice, then the last quarter I share about Italian culture,” said Italian professor Dimitri Stevanus. This semester is the first time Italian has been offered in the program.
While the classes are not for academic credit, students receive a Continuing Education Unit (CEU) certificate and a wealth of cultural and linguistic experience.
For more information on classes or to register, visit the Continuing Education webpage. No previous experience is necessary.