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A Crash-Course in Chinese Language

Posted on Thursday, July 25, 2013

As the recipient of the prestigious U.S. Department of State-sponsored Critical Language Scholarship (CLS), Howard Kouan '14 is immersing himself in Chinese culture this summer to hone his speaking and reading skills.

For nearly two months, the intensive CLS Program engages the scholars in contextual, "hands-on" experience with the language, Kouan says.

The program offers summer language institutes in 13 critical foreign languages. The institutes cover approximately one academic year of university-level language coursework during a seven- to 10-week program, and are designed to meet the needs of students from a variety of language levels and backgrounds. Some CLS institutes require one to two years of prior language study (or the equivalent), while others accept students with no prior knowledge of the language. Formal classroom language instruction is provided for a minimum of 20 hours per week.

In addition to speaking and reading classes each weekday, there are "four big projects in which we will go out and interview local Chinese-speaking people," says Kouan. "Through these hands-on research-and-interview based projects, the program strives to improve students' understanding of Chinese cultures and the ability to speak like a native person."

Kouan recently returned from a study tour to Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province, one of several trips and extracurricular activities designed to supplement the formal curriculum, to expand students' understanding of the history, politics, culture and daily life of their host country.

Program costs-airfare, tuition, room and board, cultural program expenses, overseas health benefits, and applicable visa fees-are fully covered for all participants. Participants receive a small stipend and, upon completion of the program, also receive a certified American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages Oral Proficiency Interview score.

A double major in political science and Asian studies, Kouan hopes to work for the U.S. State Department, "ideally, as a Foreign Service Officer in Asia for a couple years before I go to grad school." This experience, he says optimistically, "will surely make me stand out."

On campus, Kouan is a student steering committee member of the Human Rights and Genocide Symposium, a member of the HWS Leads program, and a member of the Asian Student Union.

 


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