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Palomar Board to Vote on Language Institute

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Palomar College is developing the first language institute at a California community college and hopes to bring U.S. students in touch with the international community while giving foreign students a smoother transition into American universities.

The California Language Institute would set up shop at the San Marcos campus at the end of July to provide English instruction to about 20 Japanese students, under a contract to be voted on by the college board Tuesday.

The California Language Institute is a private firm begun by La Costa resident Ryuji Ohnuma.

The intense four- to six-week non-credit pilot project will focus on improving students’ spoken language skills in an immersion environment, combined with exposure to American culture.

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“It’s a joint venture between two different cultures,” said Margie Ruzich, an adviser to the institute and a teacher at Palomar.

Japanese students are required to study six years of English during elementary and high school, Ruzich said, but the emphasis is on written, not spoken, English, and many students are not comfortable speaking the language.

The institute will help students work toward passing the Test of English as a Foreign Language, a requirement for foreign students in the United States.

William Flynn, dean of community education at Palomar, stresses that the crash course in English may not be enough to pass the test, depending on a student’s motivation, abilities and prior knowledge of English.

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Flynn expects that some foreign students will enroll at Palomar with the intention of eventually transferring into the University of California or California State University systems.

“The interest in this program is tremendous in Japan,” Kuzich said. “So far we have had three Japanese agents representing students come visit us.”

Kuzich also said that a group of high school students and their chaperon may arrive in July for the first class, if the program is approved.

“I think in about a year what we’re going to see is a good contingent of students and not just from Asia,” said Flynn, who hopes to see students from Europe as well. “It would add a nice international dimension to the campus.”

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The institute might also help fill a need in the Japanese higher educational system, which strictly limits the number of students admitted to universities.

“The Japanese compete for entry into the universities there, and there is a certain test score that a student must reach. If a student doesn’t reach that score, the student is not eligible to go to that university,” Ruzich said.

As a result, many Japanese students have no alternative but to go elsewhere for higher education, Ruzich said.

Some students attend U.S. community colleges and then return to their country to retake the university entrance exam. Others simply stay abroad for their college education, Ruzich said.

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Flynn also wants to see faculty and student exchanges to Europe and Asia.

“This program gives us some contacts in various educational markets in the world and may lead to short-term cultural tours,” Flynn said. “In time, investment in this contract may lead to all sorts of spinoffs. Initially, it’s just an intake of foreign students, but eventually, the traffic might go the other way.”

Although many universities, including UCSD and San Diego State University, have established similar language institutes, Flynn said that this is the first for a California community college. He said a few community colleges in Oregon and Washington have similar programs.

Flynn hopes the institute will better prepare students for work in an international economy.

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“We’re going to have more businesses and industries who see the world shrinking and want to work in the global market,” Flynn said. “Americans have been so provincial for so many years, and those years are over now.”

The joint venture would bring foreign students to the campus that Palomar does not otherwise have the funds to attract through marketing overseas.


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