Sun Young Jung

Sun Young Jung – Sun Young Jung with her mother at the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial in Taipei, Taiwan (Photo provided).

July 25, 2018

Professor builds internship model that improves language fluency at remarkable rate

by Hannah Erickson

CARBONDALE, Ill. — For most American students, foreign language is an educational requirement. But while years might be spent studying grammar in the classroom, Shu-Ling Wu, assistant professor of Chinese at SIU, discovered there had been little research conducted about how foreign language education can better prepare learners to function in a real work setting.

Armed with this discovery, Wu developed an international internship model that would better prepare her students to succeed with language use.

The seven-week program places a student in a full-time working position and requires each student to set up learning objectives that they plan to achieve through their internship experience. To help students take ownership of their own learning progress, they participate in proficiency assessments before and after the internship, engage in weekly oral journals and Skype meetings with a professor, and self-assess their language use and learning strategies.

Following this pattern, Wu found that language proficiency improved dramatically for her students. In just a seven-week time period, language improved at a rate that would typically take at least one year of training in a university setting. 

Student looking globally for her future

Coming from a home that spoke both Korean and English, Sun Young Jung, a senior studying toward a double major in foreign language and international trade and economics, always had an interest in international relationships. When she discovered the program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale that allowed her to learn Chinese and business at the same time, she was hooked.

“Growing up, one of my best friends was from Taiwan, and she was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to learn Chinese,” Jung explained.

Now, by experiencing an international internship, Jung is looking to build her future globally.

Language translation

To fulfill her seven-week internship requirement, Jung sent out her professional resume in English and Chinese to interested companies. After a successful Skype interview, she earned an opportunity to work as a translator in Korean and English at a Titanium Jewelry Brand in Taipei, Taiwan.

“I am learning how Asian businesses work compared to the States, which is a bit stricter, and how to interact with the boss,” Jung said. “I have to translate our products descriptions, so I have to research the true meanings of the name a lot, and because of that I learn each product in depth.”

While not fluent in Chinese when she began her summer, Jung is fully immersed in the language and is being pushed to expand her understanding of the language.

“All of the workers in the office speak Chinese and very little English, so I have to speak and listen in Chinese,” Jung said.

This is quickly challenging and pushing her to improve her language skills.

Improving East Asian and American relations

Jung, originally from Springfield, Missouri, has big plans for her future. After completing her degree, she hopes to work in foreign affairs and work to improve East Asian and American relationships. Jung credits her language training as the key to her future success.

“I [have] learned so many new things from language, culture, business and economics,” Jung said.

While there are many opportunities for students to study abroad while in college, there are a limited number of foreign language programs that provide students with real experiential learning opportunities. But as more students are able to jumpstart their skills with similar international internships, the path towards fluency is starting to appear more possible.