July 28, 2006

SIUC offers wide variety of foreign language classes

by Sun Min

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Step into a linguistics class at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and you may hear students conversing in Arabic, Turkish or Vietnamese.

Currently the linguistics department offers an average of two to three languages per year. That's in addition to the following languages available on a continual basis through SIUC's foreign language and literature department: American Sign Language, Chinese, Classical Greek, French, German, Japanese, Latin and Spanish.

"I think it's wonderful," said John E. Dotson, chair of the linguistics department. He said SIUC students should feel lucky to have access to so many languages, which are often taught by foreign graduate students. "The instructors are young, dynamic and experienced language teachers."

This summer Turki Binturki, a graduate student in linguistics from Saudi Arabia, is teaching Arabic. This fall, Aysegul Erdemir, a native of Turkey, will teach Turkish. She has a bachelor's degree from Marmara University in Istanbul and is working on her master's degree in linguistics at SIUC. Last year she taught Turkish at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Le Ly will teach Vietnamese this fall while pursuing a master's degree in linguistics. He taught English since 1997 at Can Tho University in Vietnam and plans to return there after he finishes his studies in Carbondale.

Dotson is proud of the curriculum and he hopes to expand the program. "Roughly half the students in the linguistics graduate programs are from other countries, that equals more than 30 international students. We will try to offer a variety of languages and with so many talented native speakers, the problem will be in choosing, not in finding someone to teach."

Dotson encourages more SIUC students to take on a new language. "Language is central to any real education, especially in today's world. Many of the skills one learns, or develops, in the study of language help with learning in a wide variety of other subjects. It even increases one's sensitivity, vocabulary, and fluency to and in one's own native language," he said.

Meeting or exceeding the expectation of students is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.