Little Italies and Tastes of Japan Immerse Students into Foreign Language Communities

Through these intense eight-week summer programs, students can fulfill their foreign language requirement.

by B.J. Koubaroulis

Little Italies and Tastes of Japan are two separate eight-week summer courses aimed at helping students, with little or no exposure to Italian or Japanese, complete their foreign language requirement in one summer.

In these immersion programs, students learn basic language skills during class meetings, lunch conversation hours, and excursions. The combination of intensive classroom meetings and immersion into the Italian-American and Japanese-American communities of the Washington D.C. metro and Baltimore area, covers the elementary and intermediate course work for these languages, which equates to nine credits.

In addition to class work, Little Italies offers lunch conversation hours, which are daily authentic Italian lunches that expose students to foods from diverse regions of Italy. The lunch conversation hour reinforces classroom material while giving students the opportunity to speak the language spontaneously in an informal gathering.

“The reason we add on the lunch-hour conversations and the cultural excursions is to show students how they can integrate Italian into the local community,” said Italian Program Coordinator Kristina Olson. “It’s a way of showing them how they can take what their learning inside the classroom about Italian culture and Italian-American culture and apply it to different venues.”

Excursions include trips to Baltimore’s Little Italy – a tradition rich area nestled between the inner harbor and historic Fells point. There will also be trips to Italian-American cultural events in Washington D.C., such as the Festa Italiana. Students will also tour the Italian Embassy and Italian collections in the National Gallery of Art.

Students will also have the option to extend the eight-week language program with a one-week field trip to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, three Northeast cities with historic Little Italies. This optional 1-credit course gives students the opportunity to integrate their knowledge of Italian language and culture with an exposure to thriving Italian-American communities.

Tastes of Japan uses a multimedia approach, invites guest speakers and takes advantage of the abundant cultural resources and facilities available in the communities around George Mason. Students also engage in a lunch-hour, catered authentic Japanese lunch-hour twice a week. There are also excursions. Students will also learn to read and write Japanese characters (hiragana and katakana).

“Of course language is important to communicate with people,” said Dr. Manako Fujiwara, Tastes of Japan director. “But without knowledge of the culture it’s more abstract and it’s harder to grasp. This program offers a chance to learn culture and language simultaneously.”