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Students get immersed in Spanish at HCC camp

July 14, 1999|By GREG SIMMONS

CLEAR SPRING - Fifteen high school students are spending five days together, and the only language they are allowed to speak is Spanish.

Hagerstown Community College is holding a Spanish Summer Language Camp this week to reinforce and improve upon the Spanish high school students have learned, said Hugo Cardenas, a professor at HCC and director of the camp.

The language camp started Sunday and will continue through Thursday at the Fairview Outdoor School.

"I came up here expecting to learn but not have any fun. But I'm having more fun, definitely, than I expected to," said Adam Ward, of Hagerstown.

Ward is one of two boys and 13 girls between the ages of 15 and 17 attending the camp. The students are from Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Ohio.

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Camp participants Rachel Hugg and Katie Martin said taking a language immersion course is an investment in the future.

Hugg, from Hagerstown, said she plans to go to Spain during her senior year in high school, so she is perfecting her Spanish. Martin, from Ocean City, Md., said she eventually would like to work for the FBI, and the agency requires agents to be bilingual.

When the students got started Sunday, getting used to the total-Spanish environment was difficult, but three days into the camp, it was getting easier, said Sara Chaapel, of Canton, Pa. She said she most liked the history lessons, "which you can probably understand the least, but at least there are maps."

Cardenas said it is important for students to start learning foreign languages early because most colleges demand that high school graduates have at least two years of a foreign language.

He said many school systems teach students foreign languages in middle school and even elementary school, but Washington County does not offer foreign languages until high school.

At the camp, which has four instructors for the 15 students, it is difficult for students to escape the learning process, especially considering only two of the instructors speak any English.

Manuel Ponce, a camp assistant originally from Peru and friend of Cardenas, teaches the "civilization" classes, which range in topic from religion, to type of dance, to capital cities of South America. Although Ponce lives in Florida, he does not speak English.

The students are in class from about 8 a.m. to noon and from about 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. At night, they play games, sing and dance. "They like the Macarena," Ponce said.

After watching a short Spanish documentary on Bolivia Tuesday night, Cardenas asked his students - in Spanish, of course - how much they recalled from the film.

"They don't get everything ... but they can't be fooled by someone who speaks the language," Cardenas said.

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