Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

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IMSA World Languages Students Sharpen Skills in Summer

This summer, IMSA’s talented World Languages students continued their global education by immersing themselves in Chinese, French, German and Russian, both here and abroad.

Sam Wietekamp '12 and Seth Butcher '12 proudly display their king after winning a game of Wikinger Schach (named Kubb in America).
Seth Zelman '12 has fun posing for a photo in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
Frau Retzel is overjoyed with her thank-you gift for coordinating the American trip at a final gathering before the students depart for America.

Immersion Key to Success

IMSA’s students have a long track record of success in World Languages and often place at the top on national and international exams.  It should come as no surprise then that they are often rewarded with summer scholarships and learning experiences to sharpen and deepen their understanding of the language and its culture.

This summer, six IMSA students were awarded fully-funded National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) Scholarships to study Russian for seven weeks.  Kevin Baker ’11, Wesley Bradley ’11, Michael Kobiela ’11, Ian Walker ’11, Grant Herrman ’12 and Madison Rogers ’12 traveled to Russia and lived with host families, intensively studied Russian for 20 hours per week and participated in cultural activities.  The NSLI for Youth is sponsored by the U.S. government and is administered by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State.

Previous NSLI-Y scholarship winner Isolina Rossi ’10 said that the NSLI-Y was the “single most life-changing experience I have had.”

“It not only taught me about the Russian language, but it taught me about Russian culture and wonderful people in Russia,” Rossi said.  In addition, Rossi said IMSA’s immersion approach to World Languages puts its students ahead of the competition and helps them to better understand the language.

“I truly think that the immersion classroom is what set me and my classmates above the rest when it came to speaking Russian,” Rossi said.   “The immersion setting of our classes at IMSA prepared me to form my thoughts and opinions in a foreign language, rather than forming them in English and then translating them as I spoke,” she added.  

In addition to the NYSLI-Y scholarship winners, Jason Chien ’12 was awarded a scholarship to participate in the Vladimir/Canterbury Sister City Exchange Program.  During the program, he lived with a host family for three weeks in Vladimir, Russia.  

To see a list of achievements as well as information on the 2011 Russian exchange program visit IMSA’s Russian Program homepage.

Students Attend Summer Language Camps

Several IMSA students attended Concordia Language Villages, described on their website as “the premiere language and cultural immersion program in the United States.”

Concordia Language Villages, located in northern Minnesota, has been educating youth in world languages and culture for 50 years.

IMSA’s German student Jennifer Crawford ’11 was awarded the Concordia Language Villages Award and received a two-week scholarship to attend the Waldsee German Camp in Minnesota—American’s oldest and largest immersion program for German language and culture.

In addition, Shelly Li ’13 received a scholarship from the Swiss Benevolent Society to study French at Concordia Language Villages.

Students Fast Track Language Skills Abroad

German students Seth Butcher ‘12 (see Seth's photos above), Sam Smith ‘12, Rheanna Vimawala ‘13, Sam Weitekamp ’12 and Seth Zelman ’12 spent three weeks in Germany living with host families as part of the American Association of Teachers of German (AATG) Summer-Study Program.

As a result of their three-week cultural and language immersion, the students had the chance to advance from Level II German to Level IV German at IMSA upon completion of a written journal and power point presentation about their trip.

IMSA student Yusuf Aktan ’12, also received a full scholarship from the National Security Language Initiative for Youth to study Chinese language and culture in China.

In addition to his Chinese language skills, Yusaf also completed Level V in French and is conducting an Independent Study with French faculty member Brenda Crosby.  Currently Yusuf is enrolled in Chinese II.

“The evidence that immersion works is seen both in and out of the language classroom,” said Crosby.  “Students are able to begin to think in the target language in order to talk about real life issues and questions that are important to them.”