The Rio Grande Bible Institute offers a 9-month program (two semesters) of concentrated Spanish language instruction designed for the Christian worker who has definite plans for ministry among Hispanic people. It is important for the missionary to be accepted by a mission board or a local church serving as their mission board and have all needed support raised before coming to school. This is to help prevent a lapse between language training and beginning service on the field so that newly acquired language skills are not lost. The RGBI Missionary Intercultural Studies strives to give a firm foundation on which the missionary will continue to build. With the immediate use of the language on the field, progress accelerates and fluency is not altered.
The fall semester begins in August and concludes before Christmas. The spring semester begins in early January and concludes in May. Therefore, two semesters are required to complete the program.
The program of the Intercultural Studies is very intense. Morning hours are spent in classroom instruction. Individual tutoring is scheduled in the afternoons. Considerable study and preparation for classes are necessary. Outside employment or activities are not advised.
Our system of language training combines a number of the leading methods of language acquisition. The audio-lingual system of communication and immersion is employed. The emphasis is strongly placed on hearing and speaking in the context of the practical and religious use of the language to aid in the learning process. Writing is considered important as an expression of speaking and hearing. State-of-the-art computer-based language labs are also provided as part of the program.
Another unique advantage that RGBI offers is the presence of Latin American young people on campus who are enrolled in the Spanish Bible Institute. Some serve as private tutors for one-on-one conversation. Each language student must spend an hour, four afternoons each week, with the tutor. The association and friendship with these Hispanic students give the prospective missionary a valuable introduction to their culture and thinking. The location of the school in a bicultural area of the United States makes for a gradual acculturation without the sudden shock so often experienced by new missionaries in a foreign country.
The administration expects students who come to the Intercultural Studies to be highly motivated to learn the Spanish language and willing to put forth the time and effort required to do so. Aside from the four hours of daily class time, an extra four to six hours a day are spent in tutor time and homework. Language learning is definitely a full-time commitment. Learning to “speak” a language is the primary responsibility of the learner. The teachers can correct, coach and guide the student, but the motivation lies with the student.