In the middle of the autumn, language teachers of Klaipėda University traditionally receive a number of those willing to learn languages. For over a decade, courses of foreign languages, including Lithuanian for foreigners, are organised at different levels. It has to be noted that the course activities have been expanding, as the number of learners has been rapidly growing. To compare with the data of 2016, the number of registered language learners will have grown twice by the end of 2017. People come to learn languages from the Klaipėda District, Palanga, and Šilutė. The process is administered by the Centre for Languages and Social Education, and the teachers of the courses are the academic staff of Klaipėda University, and sometimes qualified visiting lecturers.
Why are people attracted by the language courses of Klaipėda University? Based on the learners‘ feedback, several main reasons can be identified. First, and the most important, is the quality of teaching. The teachers have the university qualification and the experience of teaching, they are interested in the current issues of the language and culture taught by them, participate in international projects and internships, and cooperate with colleagues from abroad.
Moreover, teachers from abroad are invited to teach their native languages. In the summer of 2017, Spanish was taught by a master‘s student from the University Camilo José Cela in Madrid, while a linguist from Italy comes at least once a year to teach in the courses; incidentally, he has a good command of Lithuanian. The status of Klaipėda University, international relations, and the implemented study programmes provide opportunities for organising courses like that. For the same reason, next to traditional courses, we manage to organise different forms of language practice, such as language and culture events open to the Klaipėda City community or a bilingual practice project with the participation of KU students and Spanish students from the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences.
Moreover, a wide supply of language courses has to be emphasised: the learners of the city and region of Klaipėda are succesfully integrated into full-time student groups, and we can always offer a wide variety of languages and the levels of their learning. Therefore, the University provides both evening and day-time courses: the latter form is getting increasingly popular, language learners enjoy sitting at the same desk with students and find the university language teaching level and speed attractive. Meanwhile, the evening courses can be specialised, based on the interests of the group.
The University language learning courses offer a unique opportunity: on completing the course and passing the scheduled tests, the learners can get an academic certificate that indicates the number of the ECTS credits valid in all European higher educational institutions that can be included in the total study load. Language learners who study or are going to study find it useful.
As for the teaching of the Lithuanian language, Klaipėda University became the centre of the region that attracts increasingly greater numbers of foreign residents. The University provides both high level (in their assessment) language courses and the knowledge and skills useful for their adaptation and socialisation. “It feels like coming home”, say language learners. The intensive summer and winter one-month Lithuanian language courses have gained international recognition, and the best advertisement for them is the dissemination of the student feedback.
Thus, language studies are intensive, varied, and productive. It should also be mentioned that students emphasise particularly warm communication in language classes; at the end of the courses, cultural events are frequently organised.