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Shauna: Hello everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Magnolia On Mic. I’m your host Shauna Stewart. I will be hosting our episode this and today we have a special guest. I’m here with Professor Choi. And we’re going to talk a bit about the language programs here at NYU Shanghai. So I’m gonna let her introduce herself. 

Professor Choi: Okay. Hi, my name is Hye Eun Choi. I- I am a clinical assistant professor here teaching Korean language history as well as media studies, specifically K-pop. And I’m going to actually teach East Asia media culture sometime soon. So I teach a lot of things, but I really enjoy teaching Korean language courses. I have taught beginning one, beginning two, and beginning three, I guess. Yeah. Yes. Oh, no. Beginning three doesn’t exist. So at beginning one and beginning two and intermediate one.

Shauna: Yes. So we’re really excited to have Professor Choi on our podcast episode this week. So I guess we’ll just dive straight into the interview. So how did you become a language professor here at NYU Shanghai? Because I know you mentioned before that you focus on history and things in that sort of realm. So how did you begin teaching language?

Professor Choi: I actually, before coming here, I taught at NYU, New York as a instructor. I also taught some courses at Columbia University.

Shauna: Oh wow. 

Professor Choi: At that time. Yeah. As a, you know, was a postdoctoral fellow. And at that time I was contacted by one of the professors from William Patterson University, which- is actually state University of New Jersey. And they were looking for Korean professor or professor who can teach Korean. So they never had a, you know, Korean language courses there. So that’s how I started teaching Korean language. And when I was actually recruited by NYU Shanghai during the Covid period, and they asked if I, I could come here for one semester. I didn’t really wanna come here for just one semester. So I said like, oh, can we make a contract for one year? And then when I said that, they said, have you ever had experience to teach experience teaching Korean language? And I said, yes. And, and so they said like, oh, well as long as you are willing to teach some of Korean courses, then you can make a contractor for one year. But my K-pop course was so popular, so I only taught K-pop for I think half a year. So eventually I started teaching Korean language here.

Shauna: Oh wow. That’s very interesting. 

Professor Choi: But actually, I volunteered to teach Korean language for 10 years. Yeah. Since my MA program. So I had a long experience teaching Korean language.

Shauna: Oh wow. Well, our school’s very lucky to have a professor like you.

Professor Choi: Thanks

Shauna: And I guess as a side note, I’ve taken Professor Choi Korean courses here before. I’d highly recommend if you’re looking for another language course to take in addition to Chinese, or if you’ve already mastered Chinese, if you’re looking for another language course to take here, I’d highly recommend taking the Korean language courses.

Professor Choi: Oh, thank you.

Shauna: I had a very fun time.

Professor Choi: I enjoyed teaching you.

Shauna: Thank you. So I guess my next question is for professors who don’t specialize in language teaching, by having them teach these language courses, do you think it may put students at a disadvantage as opposed to having someone who’s specialized in teaching these languages?

Professor Choi: Well, if I’m, I guess I have a, Hmm. It’s a hard to say. Well, I guess it, it, you know, it is preferable, preferable for somebody who actually majored in teaching Korean language to teach Korean courses. Definitely. But sometimes, you know, situation is like NYU Shanghai, we didn’t have many students yet. We haven’t started a program yet. And then like, yeah, so at that time, I mean, I, I taught the Korean language courses for the first time right at NYU Shanghai. So then, you know, you did how, how I can say like a, it’s a, it’s good to cultivate some students who, or measure or how many people are interested in taking Korean courses and things like that. And now, you know, it is obvious there are a lot of students who are interested in taking Korean courses. So we just hired a new Korean instructor or lecturer who majored in Korean teaching Korean language.

Professor Choi: So yeah, I think it’s in the process. But some courses actually, even if I’m a non specialist, if it is a higher level language course, which is considered as like kind of a content course plus language course, I think in some cases because of my knowledge about Korean culture and society and history, I can also, I guess provide, offer an interesting course for students. Yeah. I’m trying, you know, I understand some kind of a, I might not be the expert or master of teaching Korean language and I can see I’m kind of improving. And that’s one reason I actually take advantage of a lot of programs offered by the, the faculty members in the world languages. They tended to offer a lot of courses or like programs to, to help each other. So I, I really take advantage of those programs. I-I’m very happy, I feel lucky to have to have a chance to learn from my colleagues. 

Shauna: So moving on to the next question. You just mentioned that there is going to be a new Korean language faculty being hired for the school. So do you think that kind of moving forward there should be more Korean professors hired here? Is there like enough interest in the Korean program to justify hiring more Korean professors for the school?

Professor Choi: I think definitely there is a possibility and we should see though, right. But I think, you know, a new hire, is really good at teaching. I was very impressed when I interviewed her. Our committee members all were very, very impressed by her teaching. And so once, you know, she, once we have like enough- offer enough courses and actually I think that which will in return generate interest among students.

Shauna: Yeah. I think since the school is starting to, I think grow, there have been a lot more course offerings I think from, even from the time that I was a freshman until now. Right, right. Which wasn’t even that long ago.

Professor Choi: Right. 

Shauna: I think there have been more courses being offered more like opportunities for students here.

Professor Choi: Right. 

Shauna: So I definitely think there’s steps being made in the right direction. 

Professor Choi: Right. Thank you. Yes. I think so too.

Shauna: My next question is how do you think enrollment for the Korean course is compared to like other languages at NYU Shanghai? Because for our listeners who don’t happen to go to NYU Shanghai, our school has a Chinese language requirement. So if you’re not fluent in Chinese or if even if you are a heritage student, you might still have to take more Chinese courses up to the intermediate two level. For the other language courses. Here, there isn’t that requirement. And for the other NYU degree granting campuses, there also isn’t that language requirement. So I’m kind of curious as to how these things may affect, like enrollment in Korean specifically or enrollment in the other languages offered here.

Professor Choi: I think definitely that affect enrollment in non-Chinese language courses. Yeah. And yeah, but I think the school is well aware of the situation and then they are actually considering amending the situation. So I’m somehow, I’m expecting that could be changed. So like let’s say, I’m not totally sure yet, but let’s say if you are fluent in Chinese, then you are supposed to take another language other than Chinese or, or I mean you don’t have to take Chinese, but you know, you can take, you are supposed to take another language up to the second year level or something like that, which will greatly help the situation, I think. Yeah. And also it’s, it’s good for students like to learn another foreign language, right.

Shauna: Because our whole thing is like making the world your major and like trying to create kind of these global students. And I think the language requirement is a big part of that. And it totally makes sense that if you don’t speak Chinese, that you go, you go to school in China, so you should take a Chinese course. Right, right. So I 100% understand it’s just that sometimes when you decide to take another language course other than Chinese, you might not have as many people to interact with as, as far as like practicing your language skills or even just like talking about class or talking about your assignments. You don’t have as strong of a community as you would in comparison to your Chinese classes.

Professor Choi: Exactly, exactly. I think, but I think it’s, the situation is getting better. I think we are, it’s, I don’t know about the other language courses, but at least in, I think in Korean language courses we have more students and at least we are not taking like a, you know, intermediate course. You took it alone. But I don’t think that will happen again. You know,

Shauna: I think that is really nice because even just like speaking with other students here who are learning Korean or have learned Korean in the past, it’s kind of nice just to like be able to hold simple conversations and get like a little bit of practice in every now and then

Professor Choi: Right. There are a lot of actually students and, and faculty members who can speak Korean very well. So I’m very happy about having like a, like a hosting conversation night or something like Yes. Conversation night and things. And so now we are expecting a new hire coming to NYU Shanghai and starting teaching next from next semester. And probably we can organize a much more, you know, many more interesting events.

Shauna: Yeah, that’ll be nice. Too bad I won’t be here. I’m a little sad.

Professor Choi: Oh no.

Shauna: But I’ll, I’ll definitely try and join events when I come back.

Professor Choi: Sure, sure.

Shauna: So do you think that these classes are advertised enough to students? Because I know this past week there was the world language fair that was being held, but I’m not sure if like enough advertisement of the courses is like going on and if that affects kind of why I personally feel like not as many students could be taking advantage of the language courses. So I’m wondering do you think the school advertises these languages enough? Is there more that we can do?

Professor Choi: Hmm. Well I think it, even if it wasn’t advertising enough, organizing, still organizing you know international language fairly itself is a way to actually spread information about language courses. Right. So maybe we can do more, we can try to organize more events like that and then maybe we can talk to academic advisor about our, you know, exciting new courses and things like that. So yeah. We should do work a little more if you feel, you know, the advertisements are not enough. Right. So

Shauna: Because I, I know that the, the school happens to host like conversation nights or like these language events, but I sometimes I feel like maybe it might not even be an advertising thing, but maybe students aren’t going out enough to go to the events

Professor Choi: Right.

Shauna: Like how do we get more students to come to these events and get them more interested in like the language courses?

Professor Choi: Right. So I’m thinking of actually organizing kind of a k-pop singing night or something like that. So-

Shauna: That would be fun. 

Professor Choi: right. Even if you are not, you know, good at speaking Korean, as long as you like a K-pop, then still you can, you know, participate in the event and then there we can actually advertise the Korean courses and things like that. Maybe we can also organized like watching Korean film, Korean film night or something. So watching Korean films together or something like that. So that could be also interesting event. Yes. But, but we don’t have many professors. That’s another thing. Like Chinese professor- there are a lot of Chinese professors, they can take a different roles, but now I’m the only one, so it’s h- It’s hard to do a lot of, organize a lot of events, but you know, with the, with the new colleague, we can, I can maybe we can expand there such programs. Yeah. 

Shauna: Yeah. That makes sense. I guess this question we’ve covered a bit already, but do you think the lack of interest creates lack of available courses? Or does the lack of available courses create lack of interest? Because I know some students, as far as like other language programs, I’ve heard like students who study Chinese say this, but let’s say they’re in like elementary. Let’s say they’re in intermediate one in their spring semester, that means they have to wait the entire summer before they can take their next Chinese course. So some people would like Chinese courses to be offered over the summer, but, but they need enough students to be able to offer those courses. 

Professor Choi: Right, right. 

Shauna: So do you think if we like increase student engagement, would more courses be offered or do the courses have to be offered first for the students to get engaged?

Professor Choi: Huh. That’s a interesting question. I guess it’s a, those a two factors are interrelated. Yeah. Right. In a sense. So it’s hard to tell which one is, you know, has way more. Yeah. But definitely what schools can do is like offering more courses. That’s why we are actually hiring more lecturers in different languages. So now we have a new, you know, we have a faculty teaching Arabic language. Right. Which didn’t exist two years ago.

Shauna: Yeah

Professor Choi: And then we have, we also have a new Japanese, you know, lecturer and, and so it’s, you know, the, the number of lecturers in non-Chinese teaching, non-Chinese languages are growing. So I think that may actually solve or resolve the issues a little bit. Actually it is really important or or significant and helpful for students to learn a language, especially, I mean, if you wanna get a job or if you, and if you can speak a different language that really opens up your opportunities. Right. And it’s the same for academic, you know, your academic in your per- academic pursuit as well. And I, I personally think the reason I got funding when I get- got accepted by PhD was because I could speak Japanese as well. So that really reduced the education period as well as like, it really proves that this person is interested in learning a language and culture of Japan. Right.

Shauna: Yeah

Professor Choi: So that’s, so in that sense, learning a language is not just learning a language, but it really opens up, you know, opportunity for each and every student. I think.

Shauna: Yeah. I’ve noticed that at least, like at the dorms, they started having more kind of language events. I know one of the residents assistants who’s fully fluent in Spanish, so he held like a salsa night

Professor Choi: Oh wow.

Shauna: Where they like learned dance and like spoke Spanish or like, there was another one where they went to like a Spanish restaurant and they spoke Spanish. And it was even for like beginners people were like beginning Spanish language learning. I thought that was really cool. They’ve also held like movie nights in other languages. Right. So they showed like Train to Busan, they showed Parasite.

Professor Choi: Oh wow. Who knew that I didn’t know anything about that.

Shauna: So even like students in like, I guess positions of power, so like residents assistants or orientation ambassadors and people like that, I think even within themselves, they’re trying to get more people interested in languages or even the languages that they themselves speak. So I think there’s going to be like a growing trend of students wanting to take more like language courses.

Professor Choi: Oh, that’s wonderful. Like, you know, maybe if they need any kind of support that they should reach out, reach out to world language program, you know. Yeah. So we can find some kind of way to, you know, support them. And I really wanna emphasize that our Chinese language faculty are great. They are so enthusiastic. They organize a lot of things. And so I think one reason, you know, the other language you should look a little non, how can I say, prominent or something is partially because they are so active. Yeah. So I, I learn a lot from my- our Chinese faculty members.

Shauna: Well, thank you so much for sharing your insights on the language programs at our school. Again, if anyone is interested in taking a language course next semester, I’d highly recommend it. Our language professors are amazing. 

Professor Choi: Yes, thank you. 

Shauna: Thank you so much for being on our podcast episode this week and we will see you guys in the next episode.

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