Making the Most of the Last Weekend

July 14, 2014

Spanish Academy

Recently la academia español visited Burlington, VT where students impressed both the locals and themselves with their speaking abilities. The day began with a leisurely boat tour around Lake Champlain. We searched for Champ, the notorious monster that dwells in the depths of the lake, and re-enacted the famous front-of-the-boat scene from the movie Titanic. After the boat tour, la academia headed to Church Street, where our restaurant and shopping needs left previously unfulfilled by quaint Poultney, were satisfied. It was quite a sight to see the river of orange MMLA t-shirts flow down Church Street and through the local mercado (market).

For me, one of the most challenging aspects of the trip was figuring out how to communicate with vendors and store clerks in Spanish; however, many students viewed this difficulty as an opportunity to share what they’ve learned over the past weeks and engage the public in games of charadas (charades). Proud students recounted many interactions where their Spanish had been better than the Spanish of a University of Vermont student from whom they purchased farm fresh vegetables. I even had people ask where we were from because they heard our Spanish and assumed we were an international summer camp who had come to explore Burlington. I don’t blame them for making this mistake! Students have really improved this week; their increased confidence and fluidity impresses me every day.

Our principiantes (beginners) are now connecting nouns and verbs to form complete sentences while our more advanced speakers have moved from concrete discussion topics, like nuestras comidas favoritas, to more abstract ideas. Mealtime used to be one of the most exhausting times of the day for me. I spent my free time thinking of entertaining questions and discussion topics so that we wouldn’t eat in silence. Despite this effort, conversations were fairly one-sided because I only got one-word responses. However, this week, eating lunch and dinner with the students has been an absolute pleasure. As their Spanish improves, so does their ability to joke around and express more meaningful ideas. Just tonight, I had a conversation about the differences between accents, dialects and languages and the relationship between all three. I look forward sharing more of these stimulating conversations over our last few meals together during this final week.

-Caitlyn, Spanish RA

French Academy

As the final days of MMLA come to a close, a different attitude fills the air: excitement, stress and anticipation. The students rose early to begin exit testing in the library, which will continue through Monday. It is exactly the same set of tests from the beginning of the program, which will demonstrate all of the progress they’ve made. Je suis tellement fier d’eux (I am so proud of them)!

Testing took them straight to lunch, after which grand battles took place between the academies in capture the flag. The French Academy got off to a rough start against the Chinese Academy losing both of their flags within a half-hour without managing a single point; however, the sparsely-populated German Academy couldn’t do anything to prevent the French Academy assault in the following match. Following a hot afternoon outdoors, the students rejoiced in a refreshing dip in the piscine, racing amongst themselves and tossing a beach ball around. Having worked up a large appetite, everyone retired to Withey for a fulfilling meal.

Being Saturday night, the students prepared for their weekly dance. Though, this night came with a twist: students could choose either to dance or to watch a movie. For the few who did not go to the dance, they enjoyed the touching story of Monsieur Ibrahim, a Muslim store clerk who finds companionship and eventually a son in a local boy abandoned by his mother and father. Everyone returned to the dorm tired and satisfied with the day.

-Matt, French RA

Chinese Academy

Here at the Chinese Academy, students have a plethora of culture classes to participate in, from Tai Chi to calligraphy, to music and cooking. I have always been a fan of cooking and baking, and even had the opportunities to teach baking classes in Nanjing, China. On Friday, I took over the Chinese cooking class and “Americanized” it: baking allergen-free chocolate chip cookies in Mandarin!

Many of our students at GMC have allergies, which unfortunately exclude them from eating a large amount of traditional Chinese food or even participating in the baking activities. That’s why I took it upon myself to create a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that were able to be eaten by all students. I scoured the Internet, visited the co-op numerous times and made two practice batches. These cookies needed to be vegan (dairy and egg-free), gluten-free, wheat-free, soy-free, nut-free and most importantly, taste good.

Students loved the break from making traditional Chinese food, loved the cookies and enjoyed learning about alternative ingredients, allergies and baking basics. The cookies were devoured in seconds by our hungry teens, who fervently nodded in appreciation, mouths full, saying, “谢谢”(xie xie=thank you) as class ended. My hope is that when students return home, they will be able to share this recipe with their families and teach these words in Mandarin, spreading the Chinese language learning bug!

-Leigh, Chinese RA

German Academy

After a very busy and successful Friday that culminated in the World Expo, German students found time to relax on Saturday. During the afternoon activity time, they joined the French and Chinese Academies for two games of Fahnenjagd(Capture the Flag), and later in the day, they enjoyed watching the World Cup soccer match.  Additionally, some students played music outside, played cards in the Gemeinschaftsraum, or worked to complete homework for class during free time. In the evening, the German Academy held a dance in Withey Hall where the Language Pledge® for a limited time was slightly relaxed, which allowed students to speak English with one another if they wished.

-Allison, German RA