‘Culturally Speaking’ program seeks students for summer

Jennie Kushner

Students looking to engage and examine other cultures have the opportunity to sign up for the Culturally Speaking program that will be offered in both summer school sessions.

Culturally Speaking is an English Language Institute class that is part of the intensive English program for overseas students.

Frannie James, a professor in the international honors college and global studies certificate program said ELI students aren’t the same as exchange students.

James said ELI students are at the University specifically to learn and study the English language, whereas exchange students are enrolled in courses.

The goal of the participating UA student and ELI student, however, is similar, James said.

“The overall idea of Culturally Speaking to try to get everyone to understand more about other cultures,” she said. “Everyone involved is looking to expand their knowledge and awareness other cultures, to find similarities and differences.”

Two different sections meet twice weekly during the calendar year. ELI has six sessions. The bi-weekly hour-long discussion topics vary, she said.

“It’s a kind of a mix of light, fun stuff, and then it will kind of get into something a little more serious, something a little more difficult,” she said.

“Topics range from fun and free time, academic life, transportation, social networking, role of religion, poverty and future plans,” she said.

James has been involved with Culturally Speaking since the fall of 2006, but the program had been around for a couple of years before that, she said.

Currently there are 33 UA students and 79 ELI students involved. James said ideally she would like 15 to 20 UA students sign up for the summer.

James encourages students to participate in the summer because she typically sees low numbers. She said the low summer numbers are reflected school-wide.

“UA population drops. There are not as many students around in the summer; if they are here, they are taking summer classes that can be demanding, and so you don’t have a lot of free time,” she said.  “Or it’s your summer and you want to use your free time differently.”

James said during the regular school year, many students are involved with ELI, so much so that she has had to turn students away.

James said the goal of the program is not for the UA students to teach the ELI students.

“No one is correcting you; you are just getting the opportunity to speak. It’s not a teaching thing. I’m sure sometimes that goes on naturally, but it’s not the object of the class.”

James said the most frequently heard complaint of international students on campus is they have trouble making friends with American students.

“They don’t end up practicing English as much as you’d imagine because if you don’t make friends, when are you going to practice English? This gives them the practice.”

Sarah Harris, a sophomore majoring in marketing, said she plans to spend her summer in Tuscaloosa and is considering participating in the program.

“I will be here all summer, and from what I have heard it can be boring at times,” Harris said. “I am interested in other cultures and would consider traveling outside of the US so I see this as a good opportunity.”

Alex Bailey, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, said he would like to participate in the summer session, but his time is limited.

“I would like to engage more with the international students, but I simply would not have time to do so this summer,” he said. “I could see myself being interested in the fall session, though.”

James said she encourages any students considering signing up for the program to speak with her. She can be reached at frannie.james@ua.edu.