Language Camp Students Learn About American Culture
Each year, a small number of students from the FLEX program attend a two-week English Language Camp (called “LP Camp”) in Alabama in early August before moving to their permanent U.S. host communities. These students are designated as needing some additional English language instruction based on their English language test scores. This year, LP Camp welcomed five students from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. Students live with temporary host families while at LP Camp, which is organized by a Local Coordinator with many years of experience hosting and working with scholarship exchange students and a certified ESL teacher.
LP Camp uses an interactive approach to help students practice conversational English, pronunciation, and language comprehension. However, students at LP Camp learn much more than spoken and written English; they also learn about American culture. “We are learning more about the U.S. and our [LP Camp] host families have helped us with the first steps of exchange year,” says Jennet from Turkmenistan. Rather than having students remain in the classroom, the ESL teacher and LP Camp organizer provide students with a variety of educational and cultural activities that take them out into the “real world” to interact with other Americans and build confidence in their English-speaking abilities.
This year, LP Camp students attended a minor league baseball game with a lesson about American culture and sports and leisure; volunteered at a local farmer’s market; learned how to shop in an American grocery store; discussed civil rights and diversity with a trip to the Rosa Parks Museum and Southern Poverty Law Museum; toured the Alabama state capital with a lesson about the federal and state government; and many other activities. “Language camp helps our language skill to be better. I also went to church with my [LP Camp host] family and liked it because it was so different for me,” says Tinatin from Azerbaijan, when asked what she has enjoyed about LP Camp.
Sodirjon from Tajikistan says, “I want to thank American Councils for arranging the camp in Alabama. We have learned to communicate in host families and it will help with our second [permanent] host families.” Commenting on some of the “smaller” cultural lessons students acquire, he adds, “One thing I have learned is that at home I say, ‘pass the salad’ and here I have learned to say, ‘please pass the salad.’” Students complete LP Camp by making a presentation about their home countries and serving traditional dishes from home they have prepared. They leave LP Camp not only more prepared to navigate an all-English environment in their host families, but with meaningful lessons about American society that will help them be successful in their exchange year.