Dual Language Track Yields Similar Abilities
Published: Friday, January 17, 2014
Updated: Friday, January 17, 2014 02:01
Both intensive and non-intensive language courses produce students with similar language abilities, according to a recent internal case study conducted by the Georgetown University German Department.
“[A] thing that we did for our assessment procedure in the department is that the outcomes of those who study in the intensive track and those who study in the regular tracks are very comparable,” German department professor and Director of Curriculum Marianna Pankova said.
Although the intensive track, in which students attend an hour long class every day, moves at a faster pace than the non-intensive track, in which students attend 50-minute classes three times a week, the content and material covered in the class is the same for both the intensive and non-intensive tracks at their respective levels.
“We have a very coherent curriculum across levels, which means that the learning goals and the learning outcomes are formulated very clearly in terms of … language affairs, language aspects, in terms of content … and types of genres that our students are supposed to produce,” Pankova said.
According to Coordinator of the Intensive Track for the French Department Alissa Webel, one of the major advantages of the dual track system is that it allows students to pursue a language to the extent they want based on individual aims.
“I think it’s a very useful thing because it helps to cater to different styles of students and different goals for students,” Webel said.
As the language levels become more advanced, however, the material of the courses in the non-intensive tracks shift to focus more on oral proficiency and current events and civilization, whereas the intensive courses place more emphasis on the study of writing and literature.
This difference is made to accommodate the different types of students in each track. As many School of Foreign Service students gravitate toward the non-intensive track to satisfy their language requirements, the non-intensive courses aim to prepare them for their oral proficiency test.
For Georgetown’s Director of Spanish Language Instruction Professor Ronald Leow, who teaches non-intensive courses, the difference between the knowledge of students in non-intensive courses and intensive courses is mostly based on content, not on skill. Consequently, students in non-intensive classes will not necessarily fall behind students in the intensive courses due to the mere nature of the course.
“What I think is that the abilities are going to be the same … the subject matter that they discuss in class, the textbook that they use, that’s going to be different, but in terms of your specific ability, in terms of your opportunity to speak, they’re basically the same,” Leow said.
However, Spanish linguistics professor Cristina Sanz suggested that the additional two days of class that accompany intensive courses provides an advantage.
“They write more, they speak more, they have two more days of practice in the classroom, but also more homework,” Sanz said.
Professors also find that students in intensive tracks are more focused than those in non-intensive tracks.
“Usually what we hear from the instructors is that, very often what happens in the intensive track is that the students are more motivated, and that can be for different reasons,” Pankova said. Pankova highlighted that German majors are usually more motivated than those that are taking it for a requirement.
Since the non-intensive track meets less frequently, students find the courses to be much easier.
“I felt like [the intensive track] was so rigorous, and now taking the step down to regular, I guess you’d call it. … I do feel like I have a leg up,” Kenneth O’Brien (COL ’16) said. “I feel like intensive, I learned so much. I had never, I barely had any exposure to Spanish, and the level that I’m able to speak at now, it’s enormous to me,”
Since students can move freely between intensive and non-intensive courses, and most SFS students choose to take non-intensive courses to fit in with the SFS course load, it is impossible to determine whether students in intensive or non-intensive tracks pass the proficiency exam more often.
However, a general trend or difference in the grades between students taking intensive or non-intensive courses does not exist.
“I don’t believe there’s a difference in the quality of the grades, or the kind of grades you get per track,” Webel said.