Participants in language exchange program more than double
Posted November 8, 2011 at 11:44 pm in News
As the USC admissions staff concludes its international recruitment period and shoots for another high enrollment of international students next year, programs geared toward international students are expanding.
The International Language Exchange program, which matches foreign students with native-speaking English students to improve both studentsâ secondary language skills, has increased its participation by 82 percent since it began in fall 2010.
âIt was difficult to recruit USC volunteers [last year],â said Katie FitzSimmons, a lecturer at the USC Language Academy and the creator of the International Language Exchange Program. âIt was easy to recruit international students, but harder to find the USC students to match them with.â
FitzSimmons attributed the programâs growth to the use of the USC Housing listserve to advertise.
The program aims to help American students become multilingual, while offering international students a âwindow into a different culture,â according to Kate OâConnor, the director of the USC Language Academy, which runs the program.
âThe objective is that international students interface closely with USC students to practice English and their home language,â OâConnor said. âIdeally both students will learn from the experience.â
After native speakers and language learners are matched, students are free to choose their learning environment.
âThey can go to the gym together and speak the language, they can see a movie together and talk about it in the language, they can do homework together or meet for coffee or eat lunch and speak the language,â FitzSimmons said. âItâs kind of a structured or guided hangout, you might say. Thereâs a point or a purpose to the hanging out, but you can use the language as context.â
Jackie Kim, a participant in the program and a senior majoring in East Asian languages and cultures, said she felt comfortable speaking Arabic with her native speaker partner.
âItâs nice to have someone who you can just talk to, you know, on a one-on-one basis,â Kim said. âYou can ask them anything you want. Itâs not like thereâs a line between teacher and student.â
Kim said speaking with her partner has really helped strengthen her skills.
âLearning the colloquial version of Arabic âŠ is just very valuable, especially because Iâm gonna be abroad next semester and I wonât be able to learn certain phrases and slang words in my classes,â Kim said.
Amy Herrmann, a senior majoring in international relations, said the program makes learning Arabic seem less like work.
âThe program is usually supposed to be one hour speaking English and one hour speaking the language that youâre looking to practice,â Herrmann said. âBut me and my partner, Nasser, we end up spending about four or five hours together every week, just sitting and chatting about a whole bunch of different things.â
With each incoming class, USC has increased its percentage of international students, said Megan Wang, an associate director of USC admissions.
âFifteen percent of the current freshman class is international students,â Wang said. âThis is one of the biggest values weâve had in years. We hope to maintain this percentage.
With more and more students coming from overseas, OâConnor said bridging the gap between foreign and domestic students will help both groups of students in the future.
âDomestic students will sink or swim in todayâs global market based on their multicultural understanding and capabilities,â she said. âBy developing these capabilities, they will have a distinct advantage in the marketplace.â
FitzSimmons said the program forges unique connections.
âThis program really fosters the idea of working together toward the common goal of learning,â FitzSimmons said. âItâs also about knowing that you have more in common than you think you do â that youâre more alike than you are different.â