The Language Education Center (LEC) at Chonnam National University has been running the Language Partner Program for American students of the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program since 2015. It aims to pair up American and Korean students to practice spoken Korean and improve their language skills. The Chonnam Tribune provides an opportunity for its readers to share their experiences. Let’s listen to the stories of an American student and her language partner. - Ed.
“I Have Made a Friend in Gwangju”
By Sahithya Gowri Vishwanath, Senior, East Asian Studies and Computer Science,
The College of William and Mary
“As a college student studying the East Asian languages and cultures, each and every experience I have related to this field contributes to my greater understanding of the region, people, and traditions. Throughout the Critical Language Scholarship program this summer, I have connected in various ways with Korean culture: with my classmates in class, my teachers during one-on-one advising sessions, and twice a week with my language partner. Through my language partner meetings, I have not only had the opportunity to practice speaking Korean, but I am proud to say that I have made a friend in Gwangju. These meetings can consist of anything, from presenting on various topics to learning about the slang used in today’s society in both our respective countries. In addition to my experiences of studying abroad in Seoul and working in Busan, the CLS Virtual Institute has proved to be a wonderful opportunity for me to deeply improve my Korean language and cultural proficiency. In the future, I hope to go into Foreign Service where I can continue to learn about East Asia and the world, while spreading knowledge of my own culture and ethnic roots.”
* Sahithya Vishwanath said that she is grateful for the opportunity to continue with her language goals this summer through her participation on the CLS Virtual Institutes for Korean at Chonnam National University. One of the favorite moments so far for her on the program is when she completed a 15-minute presentation for class and received constructive feedback from her teacher.
|▲ Sahithya Gowri Vishwanath (top) and Cho Yeon-ui /Photo: LEC
“We Started to Get Close by Sharing Our Interests and Majors”
By Cho Yeon-ui, Senior, Department of Industrial Engineering, Chonnam National University
“While doing an internship in the U.S, I received a lot of help from my university ambassador friend. In order to repay the kindness that I received, I signed up to be a language partner to the CLS students. However, due to COVID19, my language partner was unable to come to South Korea, and we ended up meeting virtually through zoom. At first, I was worried that having our meetings on zoom would either be awkward or hard to manage, it ended up being the opposite. I am not sure if it is because our hobbies and personalities matched but, from the first meeting, communication with Sahithya (Saha) was easy to do. Last year, Saha had experience studying abroad in Korea, so while her Korean was not perfect, her proficiency was remarkable. That’s why I thought it would be best to focus on the types of activities that Saha wanted to do. We started to get close by sharing our interests and majors, and then went on to look for similar interests. Saha has been exposed to a variety of Korean media such as the culture, K-pop, and dramas. With Saha’s opinion that it would be good to watch k-dramas together and discuss it, for 3 weeks now, we have been talking while watching a k-drama once a week. Other than that, when she asked me about words or grammar that she learned from class and didn’t know, I tried to explain the meaning of the words and grammar using the Korean dictionary in an easy way, and until now, Saha seemed to understand it well. I want to finish my activities well with my language partner, Saha, for the rest of the time we have together.”
* Translated by Carol Kigozi, Master Student, Global NGO Master Program, Chonnam National University Graduate School
The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is a scholarship program sponsored by the U.S Department of State where American undergraduate and graduate students are chosen to cultivate the next-generation of talent through improving their ability to speak 15 principal languages irrespective of their major and increase their understanding of the culture. Every summer, around 550 scholarship students are dispatched to each corresponding country for around eight weeks. While staying with a homestay family, the students receive intensive language training and take part in cultural experiences. In the case of South Korea, both Chonnam National University and Pusan National University have been running our program as a cooperative organization since 2015 and 2018 respectively. This year, due to the influence of COVID19, only six languages were converted into virtual programs and the Korean language program is being operated by the Language Education Center at Chonnam National University. Every day, for two hours, the students engage in live online classes with their instructors, and twice every week for one hour each, they meet with their language partner and talk freely. Furthermore, they will take part in the planned cultural experiences of Taekwondo and the May 18 Democratization Movement special lecture. [Chonnam National University Language Education Center]