Foreign Language Program and English Enhancement Program - Our History
As we approach the next academic year, it is a great opportunity for me to tell you
about the Foreign Language Program at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. You see,
we are just completing our twentieth anniversary of service to the Clear Lake area,
and it has been an eventful twenty years.
Back in August 1985, we started a small program with three French classes, offered
on a non-credit basis to anyone with a desire to learn. The theory was that adult
learners in a small comfortable environment would learn better, and have fun at the
same time. Somewhere along the way that first year a new slogan was born: “Learning
a Foreign Language at UH-CL is Fun!” It was true then and it is still true now. And
why not? Learning should always be fun!
Those three French classes were a great success and word spread to JSC about the possibility
of doing non-credit language programming. At that time in the late 1980’s, some visionary
folks at NASA realized that they would one day be working closely with Russian colleagues.
Speaking to them in their own language would be a tremendous asset in building a productive
working relationship. So our second program in Russian was implemented initially onsite,
and shortly moved to Regent’s Park to accommodate the community, and by 1989, all
Russian classes were held at UHCL.
In the next few years German, Spanish and English Enhancement were added to the already
growing list of classes. It may seem unusual that German was offered before Spanish.
At that time, there were numerous people in Clear Lake who had worked closely with
the rocket scientists in Huntsville, Alabama. I recall enrolling them in our program
and learning of their earlier exposure to German. Those were interesting stories!
English Enhancement was originally created to help non-native English speakers at
JSC to communicate more effectively in the workplace. Soon after, our program was
asked to provide English training to the first Russian cosmonauts who came to JSC
to prepare for STS 60 and 63. This was a really exciting time for me personally, as
I was on the training crew for these two flights, and was able to learn about space
flight and Russian culture, while helping the cosmonauts to improve their English
skills. To say that the Foreign Language Program at UH-CL touched history at that
time would be an understatement.
Spanish quickly became our most popular language and it comprises at least half of
our student body each session. With the demographics changing so rapidly, we are seeing
increased interest in learning Spanish everywhere, from Hispanic students who were
not encouraged to speak Spanish as kids, to business travelers, as well as those who
are avid soccer fans and salsa dancers!
The Asian languages have been included as well, with both Japanese and Mandarin Chinese
offered since 1994. In addition, we have occasionally offered Vietnamese on demand.
In recent years, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, and American Sign Language have joined
our family of languages, and have drawn more enthusiastic learners on campus for the
And who are our students, who keep coming back session after session, some for over
ten years? Our students represent all ages and educational backgrounds. What they
have in common is a desire to learn to speak another language and to learn about another
culture without the pressure of final exams. They achieve their goals at UH-CL, while
meeting similarly-motivated students.
Some of my fondest memories of our first twenty are those of students who worked together
on their homework, and developed life-long friendships at the same time…about the
students who were planning to adopt a Russian or Chinese infant…or the mother who
wanted to talk to her new Mexican in-laws…or the girl who was preparing to go into
the Peace Corps in Africa…and of course there was the young couple in my class who
met, fell in love and eventually married! It does not get any better than this!
Our nextsession will begin soon. If you would like to join thousands of other Clear
Lake residents in learning a new language, please call me at 281-283-3033, email me
at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to meet you and include you in the best Foreign Language Program anywhere.
Remember: Learning a Foreign Language at UH-CL is Fun!