Culture and communication mingle at the American Language Academy

Hallo. Bonjour. Salaam. Ciao. Hola.

Around Guilford College it’s typical to hear foreign languages, the foreign language departments organize film festivals and the Study Abroad Department prepares students to visit foreign countries. A lesser-known way Guilford contributes to foreign language opportunities is through the American Language Academy.

Last summer, Vice President of Enrollment Services Randy Doss initiated the partnership between Guilford and the ALA, which teaches English as a second language to post-secondary-age students.

“In general, our students are at least 16 years old and have earned at least a high school diploma,” said ALA Center Director Lenore Morales in an email. “Some ALA students have already completed a bachelor’s or higher degree.”

For the Guilford program, Laura Prewitt and Ed Haag were chosen as the English for Speakers of Other Languages instructors.

“ALA is wonderful for me, as I love Guilford College,” said Prewitt. “This is a dream come true personally, in so many ways.”

To graduate from the program, students must pass five levels of English for Academic Purposes. After enrolling in ALA, they can earn a conditional letter of admission to an American university of their choice. Available student service counselors work with interested students to meet college admission requirements.

Prewitt and Haag conduct level four and five classes in Bauman and Hege Library.

“Working on the Guilford campus is an honor and a privilege,” said Haag. “When I found out we were working with Guilford, I looked forward to it.”

Many ALA students learned about the program through family, friends and the ALA website. These students are excited about the prospect of attending nearby colleges, with several expressing interest in University of North Carolina at Charlotte, North Carolina A&T University and Guilford, among others.

“I’m excited to see this happening — that we have these students who desire to go to a university in this country,” said Prewitt.

Even though ALA participants are not Guilford students, they use the cafeteria and other campus resources. In addition, they have the opportunity to learn the Quaker heritage of the college.

“I like the history of Guilford College,” said ALA level four student Meashal Khalifia. “Also I like the design of the buildings, especially the library.”

“(Guilford is) more beautiful than China,” said Jiang Hu, who is from Yong-King, China. “I love all the trees. In China, there are not many trees.”

Through a recent program designed by Prewitt, ALA students team up with Guilford volunteers to enhance their conversational skills. The conversational partner program allows students to chitchat about cultural differences, commonalities and a range of other topics.

“I want to give them a good sense of American humor because that can always help break the ice,” said first-year Julia Cohen, a program conversation partner. “I think humor is one of the best things you can have for making friends.”

Prewitt said that each conversational party will receive two free coffees or teas if they unite at the Greenleaf.

First-year German major Kate Schuldt understands the feeling of adapting to the language barrier. She used to work on a farm two hours from Berlin, and that experience inspired her to volunteer as a conversation partner.

“We get the benefit to learn about their culture first-hand,” said Schuldt. “I thought we’d just have small talk, but it turned more to their traditions and food comparison with our culture. That was very interesting.”

Haag also values the cultural insights conveyed by ALA students.

“I’ve always loved working with students from international populations,” said Haag. “You learn about different cultures and backgrounds. You learn what people love about America and not love so much. I get to teach, but I learn so much at the same time.”

[photomosaic nggid=74]