Some BYU students are spending the summer in countries such as Morocco, Russia and Tajikistan for more of a reason than to see the world. Instead, these students are traveling to improve their language skills and to become fluent in the languages they are learning.
Robert Bonn, Elizabeth Nielsen, James Juchau and Alex Williams are some of these students that went overseas as part of the U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship Program. The purpose of this scholarship is to have students learn international languages that are considered critical from the security point of view.
These students feel that they can learn so much by being in the country that speak the language they are learning.
“I mostly want to get to the point that I no longer have to think about basic inflection and word choice in everyday conversation,” said Nielsen who traveled from her home in Moscow, Idaho to her internship in Moscow, Russia. “I would also, of course, like to gain perfect self-confidence and become supremely outgoing.”
They spend a few hours everyday learning the language; plus, they dedicate additional hours to go out and start using the things they learn in everyday context. They need to seek opportunities where they can develop language skills.
“I have four hours of intensive Persian language study everyday with almost three additional hours of private tutoring a day,” said Williams from Trabuco Canyon, Calif., who is spending the summer in Tajikistan learning Persian . “We are encouraged to make friends and practice as much as we can.”
For Bonn, from Henderson, Nev., learning Arabic in Morocco it is a way to break cultural barriers as well as build and strengthen relationships.
“I sincerely enjoy communicating with Arabic speakers, in order to forge friendships, in order to get a sense of what their opinions are of political and social phenomena, in order to gain a deeper understanding of their various cultures,” Bonn said.
Bonn also feels that learning Arabic is a great opportunity for him to fulfill altruistic ideals.
“I hope to use my language proficiency to play some role in promoting peace and reconciliation between my culture and that of the Arab world,” Bonn said.
Juchau from Westerville, Ohio, who is in Morocco, believes this study abroad has been very rewarding in a very broad sense because it will enable him with language skills, experience, cultural awareness and endless career possibilities.
“It’s also a great opportunity to form relationships with other Americans and Moroccans with similar interests and goals that will benefit my future career,” Juchau said. “It will improve my Arabic to the point where it’s a marketable skill.”