UM Program Helps Improve Foreign Language Proficiency

Students benefit from intensive on-campus and international study

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Department of Modern Languages is offering a program to build students’ fluency in one of three languages, along with an opportunity to apply their knowledge in an international location.

Through on-campus study and intensive language study abroad, students can achieve a higher level of proficiency in Japanese, German or Russian in a shorter amount of time.“Students with a passion for language learning receive a heavy dose of instruction early in their college career, creating the opportunity for prolonged learning at the advanced level before graduating and a greater likelihood they will be able to minor in these three languages or even major in German,” said Donald L. Dyer, UM chair of modern languages.

The Language Initiative program was created six years ago by the Department of Modern Languages and the Study Abroad Office. Some of the benefits for participants are being able to complete a minor in the language of their choice in two years, the opportunity to study abroad early as well as enjoying smaller class sizes. Knowledge of a foreign language is also a useful tool when applying for jobs or graduate school.

Incoming freshmen can begin the program as early as the summer before their freshman year. Already-enrolled students are also encouraged to apply. No previous language experience is required.

For the on-campus intensive language immersion, students can take six hours of coursework during the summer and intermediate level courses during the following academic year. Students then participate in an approved four-week study abroad program the following summer.

“As an instructor, it is very exciting to see students acquire the language so quickly,” said Christopher Sapp, associate professor of German and linguistics. “In just four weeks of the summer course, they go from not knowing a word to holding simple conversations.”

Blair McElroy, adviser for the UM Study Abroad Office, describes the program as not only a “fast track” to earning a minor in Russian, Japanese or German, but also “an immersive and intensive cultural and linguistic experience both on the UM campus and abroad.”

“Studying abroad is a fantastic experience where students learn to appreciate diversity, to cultivate tolerance and self-reliance, and students always return to UM more mature and well-rounded due to the experience of studying abroad,” McElroy said.

“Many of the students who are members of the Language Initiative will study abroad again for longer periods of time. Just today, I advised a Language Initiative alumnus who is attending the International University in Moscow for a semester in the fall, which speaks highly of the program.”

McElroy has also seen students pick up other languages more easily.

“One of our Language Initiative students not only completed the Language Initiative in Japanese and then spent at year studying at Osaka Gakuin University in Japan, but he also began studying Korean and just returned from a semester at Korea University in Seoul, Korea,” she said.

One former participant, Garth McClure, a senior majoring in English with a minor in Japanese, studied at Osaka Gakuin University during the summer of 2010.

“The month I spent learning Japanese in the initiative program was incredible, and the subsequent trip to Osaka, Japan, was equally spectacular, definitely one of the most memorable experiences of my life,” McClure said. “One month in the initiative program passes by in an instant, and in that instant, you take in a vast amount of information, but the challenge is made doable thanks to fantastic professors who are always willing to lend a helping hand.”

The deadline to apply for the Language Initiative is May 1. The application is available for download at

For more information on the UM Language Initiative, contact Modern Languages at or 662-915-7298.