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iMas Pronto!

Men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski raves about it. Two of his seasoned players are currently engrossed in it. Academic administrators beam with pride over it.

And the participants, by the end of August, just might be cursing it<but only in Spanish.

The Intensive Spanish Institute kicked off its inaugural run during Summer Term II, springing from an initiative to present an alternative means of fulfilling the foreign language competency requirement, a core component of Curriculum 2000, the three-year-old Trinity College curriculum.

Structured as an immersion model, ISI submerges participants in the language and cultures of the Spanish language as they complete two regular semester courses<both Spanish 1 and 2<in a constricted time period of six weeks. Students sit in class from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, with only a short siesta in between.

"We see that students become much more familiar with a foreign language when they take advantage of opportunities to travel and study abroad," said Dean of Trinity College Robert Thompson. "They become immersed with the culture, the people."

Thompson and other developers of the program said they hoped to echo an actual cultural immersion program, such as study abroad, and make the experience accessible to students on campus. "There are different ways of learning," he added. "We realize that while some would thrive in the traditional setting, there are others who would prefer other options such as the immersion program."

To top it off, students are also required to speak Spanish -- and only Spanish -- launching quickly into language usage from day one.

Kendra Ferguson, a sophomore, said she did not mind the demanding requirements. "I think that's the best way to learn a language, to just start using it right away," she said.

Liliana Paredes, director of the Spanish Language Program and a visiting assistant professor, said an important component of the program has been finding faculty to get involved. "I looked to see who was available for instruction during the summer -- some of the faculty are away then -- and I tried to see who would be interested in being involved, who would fit well with the program," she said.

Two faculty -- Joan Clifford, ISI coordinator and visiting assistant professor, and Celines Villalba-Rosado, a lecturing fellow -- each run a daily three-hour session. "We try to work together to complement and to further develop and repeat the [classroom] activities," Clifford said.

Villalba-Rosado, who previously worked with New York University in Madrid, said she was interested in seeing how students learn in the context of the United States compared with studying abroad.

Clifford said the configuration of the program and curriculum design most attracted her to the program. Having taught advanced language classes at Duke, she said she also enjoyed the prospect of working with elementary level classes.

The structure of ISI is intended to be small to promote interaction and participation<and to be rigorous, which program directors noted was inevitable given the nature of the program. This summer, seven participants are working through the program with nearly triple the workload of a full-time summer session student, with the expectation of an additional one to two hours of work in the evening outside the classroom environment. Students are also required to attend guest lectures, films and discussions in the evenings.

The class features a text specifically designed for such an intensive course<appropriately titled "Rapido, Rapido!" along with regular online discussion forums and real-time chat rooms.

"It was what we expected," said sophomore Micah Harris. "I think they did a real good job of slowly working their way [into the workload] and just warning us about what to expect."


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