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The SLA Grant program was created in 2009 to help students attain advanced levels of foreign language proficiency. Through the SLA program, students are able to gain both functional linguistic skills as well as access to the intellectual capital of cross-cultural exchange and cross-linguistic study during their academic careers.
The SLA Grant requires specific thresholds of language study before and during study abroad in order to target the ideal period for language acquisition during the students' time abroad and thus facilitate maximum gains. All recipients are also required to undergo nationally recognized language proficiency testing before departure in the Spring and upon reentry in each Fall. Similarly, recipients must take specialized coursework before and after their SLA Grant study. During study abroad, recipients maintain a blog of their language and culture study to increase meta-linguistic knowledge as well as complete community integration tasks designed to get them outside of tourist centers and interacting with local, native speakers who represent that target language and culture most authentically.
This rigorous program of study is unique among Notre Dame’s international programs and one of only a select few in the nation providing comprehensive and research-driven language study abroad. More importantly, the program has seen significant impact in both qualitative and quantitative outcomes. On average, SLA Grant recipients demonstrate gains of 1.58 levels on the ACTFL OPI language proficiency scale after a mere 6-weeks abroad--a degree of improvement equivalent to nearly two semesters of foreign language coursework. Qualitative outcomes have suggested that in addition to language gains, students are significantly more sensitive to cultural patterns and capable of engaging in greater and more sustained varieties of intercultural communication.