Just like every summer, Klaipėda University is buzzing with conversation and activity: another Lithuanian Language and Summer Course started, organised by the Languages and Social Education Centre of the Faculty of Humanities and Education Sciences.
The participant statistics: this summer, the course is attended by 40 participants from 14 countries. These are students, teachers, foreigners of Lithuanian descent or foreign citizen who settled in Lithuania due to marriage, jobs, or due to having been granted asylum. The outermost countries include the USA, Columbia, and China. The most numerous category of learners are students and teachers from universities abroad–the Education Exchange Support Foundation scholarship holders who received Republic of Lithuania state scholarships for the summer course.
Such courses have been organised in Klaipėda University for 15 years, with the number of participants fluctuating between 35 and 70, depending on the number of the projects integrated into the summer course. From this year, the course shall be referred to as the Lithuanian Language and Culture Summer ACADEMY. Why? Each year we are getting increasingly more participants fluent in Lithuanian; those are philologists or professionals of humanities who are interested in the language areas, too sophisticated even for most native speakers: accentology, etymology, dialectology, or mythology… They have to be developed individual curricula, similar to those taken by Lithuanian students of linguistics, which is a pleasant challenge for the course teachers.
This year, four student groups at different levels, from beginners to fluent speakers, are taught by highly qualified staff: lecturers, an associate profesor, and a full profesor, who incidentally speak more than one foreign language. However, the Lithuanian language predominates: all the course participants do their best to practice their Lithuanian speaking skills.
However, lessons in classrooms account merely for half of the summer courses. Another half is a cultural programme seeking to provide the course participants with the knowledge about Lithuania, taking them to famous tourist sites all over the country, and offering entertainment. It provides for opportunities for the language learners to communicate and gain the widest posible range of the language practice.
What else should be emphasised? The staff of the course live in its rhythm for a whole month. We stay with the students in the classroom, during the events, and also take them to our homes: the programme includes an ítem Visiting a Lithuanian Home. Both we and our family members are involved. Sometimes we joke we are like a sect: after the course ends, we feel sad for some time, and then start looking forward to the next course. Not to have to wait too long, next to the summer course, we introduced a winter course as well.
What do our language learners think of us? Each year, nearly one third of them come here for a second or a third time. Relationships, collaboration, and projects have been developing. As it turns out, in addition to a highly appreciated academic level, we make dreams come true! Flaviano from Italy, who has attended our course more than once, was happy to participate in a merry Sea Festival procession: All the Summer Academy students and the staff, having painted Lithuanian Language Academy on their tea shirts, joined the ranks of the Klaipėda University representatives. Students from China admitted having for the first time been in the woods at night and having enjoyed wonderfully bright stars on the beach, while Galina from Belarus put it simply and nicely: I am happy to be here.
Last year, that traditional event of Klaipėda University was awarded a Letter of Thanks of the Education Exchange Support Foundation for many years of successful work and excellent results. This year, because of the KU restructurisation and other reforms, it was much more difficult to organise the course, however, we trust that its popularity, quality, and international recognition will continue to grow.
Jūratė Derukaitė, Head of the Languages and Social Education Centre,