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Summer Language Class at University

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Each year during the summer holidays the university of Wrocław, to be precise: the School of Polish Language and Culture for Foreigners which is part of the Faculty of Philology, offers a four-week language class for foreigners. It is open to everyone, you do not have to be a university student. It consists of language lessons in the morning and lectures on cultural topics in the afternoon. Of course everything is in Polish. Language immersion and thorough language studies with competent teachers is the best way to learn. You do a placement test on the first day and according to the results groups of about 12 students are formed.

Accommodation for the participants is organized at a student dorm. Three local students were hired as „pilots“ to organize some activities outside lessons and to take care of any problems the participants might have. These three did an excellent job. They were always there, took people's wishes and needs and worries seriously whatever they were, and undertook any effort to solve every problem. And they spoke English with us if necessary so we were really able to communicate our worries.
If you are interested in more details about the course, please check out the school's website: http://www.sjpik.uni.wroc.pl

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My personal experience, however, is not entirely positive. I surely learned a lot. Trouble was that I ended up in a class that was far, far too difficult for me. Everyone does the same test, and the division into groups is done according to the points/percents scored - a fairly inaccurate method to estimate people's actual skills or lack thereof. After just one year of evening class I ended up in group 5 while others who had been studying much longer and spoke much better were in group 2. No idea how I scored those points. After two days of desperate struggle I changed to class 4 but still it was very hard, rather too hard. Until the second week many others changed groups, too, because they were not placed right.

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Usually each class stays with one teacher all four weeks; we changed in the middle of the course but that was all right. Both teachers were good and nice - although they did not realize my problems. Trying to understand the teacher, understanding the text on the sheet in front of me, understanding the grammar problem we were dealing with, figuring out what we were supposed to do with the text AND thinking about the correct answers, and all this at once, was often impossible to cope with. Most others either had a Slavic language as their mother tongue or knew at least some Russian. For them it was much easier to understand (or guess) what the teacher was saying, and to grasp the grammar which differs in many respects from our western languages. My biggest problem was my limited knowledge of vocabulary, compared to the others. Learning a hundred or more new words per day doesn't work. I'm not 20 or 25 any more...

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Did Chopin have a sister?
No, this is simply the genitive of his name.

Although the school, or university institute, has been in existence and doing research and teaching for 40 years, I could not recognize a structure how the different levels were distinguished. It seemed to me that all groups started at the same point with repetition of basic grammar but speed and vocabulary then differed so the higher groups went further ahead. What if someone comes for the second time and has already done a course on a certain level there - will s/he be doing the same stuff again? (I am comparing to similar classes I took in Italian at a private school in Florence, which was a lot better organized.)

Teaching materials consisted of a mess of photocopies with compiled exercises and grammar schemes in between, assembled from various other schoolbooks - although the school has published their own textbooks and teaching materials, but these were not used. Each teacher had to compile their own materials. Allow me to mention that this was not the first but the 40th time they were doing such a summer course.
The lectures in the afternoon were done by university docents from various subjects and dealt with many interesting topics on Polish history, culture, and society. However, being entirely in Polish they were far too difficult to understand for the majority of the participants including yours truly and wasted time. The school will have to think about that.

Conclusion: Attending this class makes sense if your Polish is already at medium level or higher and/or you know another Slavic language well. For beginners or people with weak skills like me, it is not as promising.

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Faculty Building, the former Premonstratense Convent

The baroque convent buildings behind the (now) Greek-Catholic Cathedral of St Vincent are now the seat of the University's Faculty of Philology. It is not the only building of the faculty but the main one with the set of the dean. During the summer holidays, when the regular students are on holiday, it is used for the intensive summer courses of Polish language for foreigners... in other words, in here is where I spent all weekdays during my stay, studying the language. The complex was built in the late 17th century for the Norbertine (Premonstratense) convent. It suffered quite some damage in World War II but has been beautifully restored.

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Nehring Hall

Four wings surround an inner courtyard, off-bounds to tourists but very popular among students and faculty members. The pavillon in the middle and the rose garden make it a pleasant spot to hang out during breaks.

The rooms inside the four wings are now big and small lecture halls and offices of faculty members. The first photo shows the largest lecture hall. They all have these funny school benches, with table and bench connected in one piece, instead of normal tables and chairs. The most beautiful room is the so-called Nehring hall which is used for official events, like the handing out of our certificates at the end of the course.

Posted by Kathrin_E 15:53 Archived in Poland Tagged wroclaw

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