USC offers its ever-growing international student population of non-native English speakers resources and learning opportunities to boost their English fluency and prepare them for a top-tier university education in the United States.
The American Language Institute at the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences provides a range of English language classes, testing services and training opportunities.
Operating independently of other linguistics and languages programs within USC Dornsife, ALI provides services catered toward non-native English speakers.
According to Jim Valentine, director of ALI, the institute focuses largely on improving oral and written English skills.
“I would say writing and oral skills, a half-and-half division, are the largest issues for [non-native English speakers],” Valentine said.
Valentine notes, however, incoming international students’ English-speaking skills are improving.
“We’re seeing better levels of preparation, and in general, quite impressive levels of fluency,” he said.
For students who need more assistance with speaking English and perform poorly on the International Student English Exam, ALI offers courses that fulfill USC English language requirements. ALI classes are also availible to all USC students who want to improve their English language skills.
Unique initiatives such as the ALI’s International Teaching Assistant program offer non-native English speaking teaching assistants, through collaboration with undergraduate students, the opportunity to improve their English skills and get acquainted with American culture.
Graduate students who want to become ITAs are paired with native English-speaking undergraduate student consultants from diverse backgrounds.
“We mainly focus on public speaking and also how to communicate with undergraduate students,” said Tony Hsieh, a senior double majoring in music and cinema production and a former undergraduate student consultant. “One part is teaching them how to lecture and give them confidence and the other is to show them student life.”
Through weekly interactions, the student consultants are able to pass on linguistic knowledge and cultural awareness to their older peers.
“We take them out to restaurants, go to movies with other ITAs, etc.,” Hsieh said. “It’s important for them to know how to connect with undergraduate students that they’ll be teaching.”
Woojoo Lee, an ITA from Korea, has found the program beneficial.
“It’s always hard to teach in English, [the ITA program] gives us a chance to speak in and practice English,” Lee said. “Usually we have casual conversation, and sometimes I give him some class materials and he corrects my pronunciation.”
The program also reciprocally provides value to the undergraduates who work with future ITAs.
“Our [ITA] program creates one-on-one situations where
undergrads benefit not only from teaching, but can also learn about the TA’s culture,” said Valentine. “It’s a really exciting program.”