Exchange Students Learn to Think In Another Language

“Acclamation” is a word you hear quite frequently in foreign exchange student programs. Acclimating to a new culture, new surroundings, and a new family seem, on the surface, to be the greatest challenges that face exchange students when their respective programs begin. But acclimation goes beyond the surface components of change. How a student dresses, what a student eats, and the behaviors a student learns to adopt are cursory examples of acclimation when compared to the changes that take place in the mind. Things like language development and the adaptation to values and customs are often overlooked, but matter most when it comes to a student’s success on a cultural exchange program. Without the power to communicate clearly and understand the way a society works, cultural exchange would be impossible.

With that in mind, consider the monumental amount of work that each student must undertake in order to successfully adjust to his or her new home. If we stop to appreciate the difficulty in accessing the language and customs in a foreign nation, the following example is all the more amazing.

Recently, two students in the Gemstone Region (northern Midwest) related what it was like to learn to think in another language. Nicholas Teughels from Belgium and Robert Carillo from Mexico both attend school in South Dakota, and recently confessed to writer David Brown that learning to think in another language was difficult, but comes naturally now that they hear the language on a daily basis.

“Here,” said Carillo, “I listen to everything in English. I just see English. I just talk English…[in Mexico] I used to watch movies in English with Spanish subtitles…to learn the words.”

Although classes in English and immersion in the language are a part of the program, it often takes several weeks for students to really become accustomed to using the language on such a frequent basis, and sometimes as long as a month before students start to think in English.

After several weeks in South Dakota, Teughels found it much easier to understand the people around him and the classes he was in than it was when he first arrived. “Now,” said Teughels, “I’m dreaming in English, I’m doing everything in English. And sometimes, when I speak to my family or friends, I don’t find my words in French.”

The transition is one that most students need help and support with, as most former host families will tell you. But within a short time each student has made his or adjustment and become a part of the community in which they live and study. By the time they go, the process has to start all over again, as each and every student must at some point readjust to a language and a culture that they left behind for many months.

So when you see a foreign exchange student, remember that he or she has a lot of acclimating to do, and that a helpful correction or a friendly gesture can go a long way. We wish all of our fall students luck, and successful and healthy transition into winter.

Student Ties for Fist Prize in Natoma Art Competion

Kicking off what promises to be another stellar year for International Student Exchange, Chinese student Xinyi Chen tied for first palce in the Clothes Line Art Fair at Natoma High School in Russell County, Kansas. Sharing her title with local student Taylor Baxley, the two tied for first place with their entry to the competiton’s “Americans at Work” theme.

Xinyi and Laura were granted their award by Natoma library board vice president Mary Murphy, and the Amercian Legion Auxillary president, Laah Tucker. ISE would like to thank these esteemed women for honoring our students, and our student for honoring her country and ours.