At the Institute for Foreign Language Research and Education, there has been a strong focus on developing systems that enable students to learn foreign languages and cultures more effectively during their student lives. For many years, the institute has organized intensive courses in German, French, Spanish, Chinese, and Korean, in which students have four class periods (eight hours) per week. Offered in the second year, the Trilingual Program has been established, and students who finish the course can obtain a certificate upon graduation. This program was launched in the 2018 academic year, and has succeeded in encouraging students to continue their studies in two foreign languages (the number of students completing the first term in the 2020 academic year was 28). The goals for “trilingual” completion (CEFR-level B1 for German, French, Spanish, and Korean; C1 for Chinese) have almost been achieved, so that the program has been a success for those who have joined it and provides good opportunities for language learning, particularly in a university that has no specialized school of foreign languages.
One problem is that of the 2,500 students who enter the university each year, only a small number of students take the foreign language intensive course, at around 100 participants, and the numbers of students who proceed to the trilingual course are smaller: 63 in 2018, 104 in 2019, and 56 in 2020. For students of science, the first-year intensive course is problematic due to timetabling, and this subsequently makes it difficult for them to advance to the Trilingual Program. Also, there are some challenges concerning the foreign language classes which need to be addressed, and this is the main focus of this paper.
In order to improve the Chinese classes, changes were made in 2021. The main way of improving the classes was to use the university’s teaching assistant (TA) system. This has been used to place international students in the classes as teachers and teaching assistants to increase the opportunities for students to interact with first-language Chinese speakers. The aim has been to aid students in developing their communication skills in Chinese. This paper explores the process and results of this innovation.