The ability to communicate effectively in English – to read, write and speak the language fluently – is vital to your success as a university student, and may also serve as a vital tool in your future academic and professional success. USC graduate students are therefore expected to demonstrate proficiency in English at all levels of graduate study.

About ALI

Since 1959, the American Language Institute (ALI) has been providing English language instruction, assessment, and resources to support the academic and professional success of non-native speakers of English pursuing degrees at USC. The ALI offers English language courses for those students who want to improve their English as well as those who are required to take classes as a result of taking the International Student English (ISE) Exam. The ALI is also responsible for testing and providing English language instruction for the university’s international teaching assistants.

English Courses

The ALI offers a number of courses to help international students improve their English skills. Many students are required to take ALI classes as a continuing registration requirement. Most ALI classes are also available for international students as electives.

University Policy on English Language Proficiency

Admitted international students must meet USC’s English language standard. Those who do not will be required to take the International Student English (ISE) Examination at the beginning of their first term of study. The results of the examination determine whether or not students must take courses in English.

Programs for English Practice

ALI offers free programs that promote English conversation between USC’s international and native English-speaking student populations. ALI’s various group programs are an excellent way for international students to supplement their studies; they provide a venue in which students can practice their growing English skills with a native English-speaking USC student in a casual environment.

Conversation Groups

Book Club

Writing Labs

An instructor writes on a white board with a red marker.

Supporting USC’s International Teaching Assistants

The American Language Institute is responsible for evaluating the English proficiency of all international teaching assistants (ITAs), and for providing the necessary training to help these individuals obtain the language skills necessary to fulfill their teaching responsibilities. This training may include enrollment in courses which focus on the communication skills needed for teaching.

Featured Faculty

Jim Valentine

Jim Valentine, director of the American Language Institute, received his doctorate from the University of California, Los Angeles specializing in Psychological Studies in Education with a cognate in TESL/Applied Linguistics. He also holds a B.A. in French and Spanish from Dartmouth College. For seven years prior to his arrival at the University of Southern California, he served as language coordinator for the international business programs at the Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) at UCLA’s Anderson Graduate School of Management. His principal applied research interests are human motivation, the instructional design of language programs, organizational psychology, and educational anthropology.

Jim Valentine

Lucienne Aarsen

LUCIENNE AARSEN, MA English Teaching, BA International Relations. Lucienne Aarsen has extensive experience in teaching English in diverse, cultural, academic and business environments internationally and nationally.  Overseas, she taught in Indonesia, Israel, and London, where she earned her MA in English Teaching at the University of London Institute of Education. Locally, she has taught Business English and English for Academic Purposes at UCLA and USC. Currently, she is the ITA Program Coordinator at USC providing pedagogical training to international PhD candidates who are assigned TA duties.  In addition to language instruction in the classroom, her experience includes training in the workplace. She has worked for private and government sectors, customizing lessons, material, and activities based on trainee and company needs. She is very passionate about fostering educational exchanges with people from various cultures, and enjoys picking up languages in the process. She speaks Dutch and Italian and has studied French, Russian, and Spanish. Her approach to teaching is to actively engage students in topics related to their professional, academic, and social interests in order to help students gain confidence in their English language skills.

Lucienne Aarsen

Reka Clausen

Reka Clausen is an Assistant Professor of English as a Second Language and received her MA in TESOL from California State University, Los Angeles. Since joining the ALI faculty in 2002, she has taught both writing and oral skills courses, though her passion lies primarily in teaching oral skills courses for international teaching assistants (ITAs), combining language instruction with teacher training. She has also served as assistant coordinator of the ITA Summer Institute, co-chair of the CATESOL Regional Conference at USC, and liaison between the Viterbi School of Engineering Writing Program and the ALI.  Prior to joining the ALI faculty, she taught ESL at UCLA Extension, Santa Monica College, and in Bologna, Italy, where she lived for nine years. She is fluent in Italian and Farsi and has studied French, Spanish and Portuguese, as learning foreign languages and traveling overseas have always been a passion.

Reka Clausen

Barry Griner is a Master Lecturer and is a contributing author of Teaching Pronunciation: A Course Book and Reference Guide (2nd ed, Cambridge University Press, 2010). He received a BS in Mathematics Education before spending ten years teaching English in Hiroshima, Japan (seven as Head Teacher). After returning to the States, he got an MA in Applied Linguistics and TESL at UCLA. He also did several years of study in the Applied Linguistics PhD program there, doing research on the morphophonotactics of Japanese and on intonational phonology. More recently, he spent two years teaching writing at the Centre for English Language Communication, National University of Singapore. Barry’s 28 years of teaching experience also includes program evaluation/development and teacher training as an Academic Specialist for the US State Department in Uzbekistan and Armenia.

Richard Jones

Richard Jones is a Lecturer of English as a Second Language at the American Language Institute at USC. He earned his M.Ed. in TESOL from Temple University and his M.A. in East Asian Studies from UCLA. Richard taught academic and business English for ten years in Japan, working in both Tokyo and Osaka. He is also an editor who has revised English editions of books in fields ranging from Anthropology to Psychology. Richard has helped researchers in China, Korea, and Japan prepare manuscripts for publication in American and European journals. When not teaching or editing, Richard spends his time reading, playing music, and searching out interesting restaurants and new recipes.

Richard Jones

Nina Kang, Ed.D. is a Master Lecturer and ISE Testing Coordinator at the American Language Institute, University of Southern California with 20+ years of teaching experience. She has enjoyed teaching across the world in Bulgaria, China, Korea, Serbia & Montenegro, Uganda, and Uzbekistan and hopes to continue her work in teacher training in the field of English language teaching.

She has presented at numerous international conferences and has been involved in teacher training and curriculum development as an English Language Specialist for the US Department of State in Hanoi, Vietnam and Beirut, Lebanon. Her areas of interest include testing assessment specific to writing, collaborative writing models, academic help-seeking skills of international students, technology-enhanced teaching and learning, and online/hybrid content delivery.

Juli Kirkpatrick

Juli Kirkpatrick is the ISE Testing Co-Coordinator of the USC American Language Institute.  She earned her BA in International Relations from Stanford University and her MA in TESOL from United States International University in San Diego.  She has taught English in Japan and Turkey as well as at San Diego State and UCLA Extension.  She specializes in teaching academic writing and accent reduction.  She is also an editor who helps students prepare papers for publication. When not teaching, she enjoys traveling, learning foreign languages and doing  Middle Eastern dancing.

Juli Kirkpatrick

Olivia Martinez

Olivia Martinez obtained her B.A. and graduate degrees from UCLA. Her academic interests include linguistics, lexicography, code-switching, translation/interpretation, TESL, as well as issues related to generation 1.5 English speakers. Her experience includes work in community based ESL programs, as well as English literacy programs in the Los Angeles area, as well as working as a lecturer at UCI and UCLA. Most of her research has focused on Valley Zapotec, an indigenous language from Mexico, her native country. She also loves to read and dance, though not at the same time.

Olivia Martinez

Mary Ann Murphy

Mary Ann Murphy has a Bachelor’s degree in French and History from the University of Tennessee, and a Master’s degree from UCLA in Teaching English as a Second Language. She has had the honor of serving as Program Chair for the CATESOL Regional Conference at USC. She has also taught English as a Second Language for UCLA and other universities, and has extensive experience in curriculum and materials development.

Mary Ann Murphy

Eric Roth teaches students the pleasures and perils of academic writing and public speaking. He has taught numerous English and writing courses at USC since 2003. A former journalist and Congressional aide, Roth also directed the CES Adult Education Center from 1996-1999.  Roth received his MA in Media Studies from The New School University, and his B.A. in philosophy from Wabash College. He has taught in Spain, France, and Vietnam, regularly presented at professional (TESOL, CATESOL) conventions, and traveled to over 40 countries. Roth also co-authored the fluency-focused Compelling Conversations series and served on the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant national selection committee (2015-2017).

Kimberley Briesch Sumner is a Senior Lecturer of English as a Second Language at USC and has always had an affinity for learning languages and visiting cultures around the world. Originally from Oklahoma, she obtained her Bachelor’s degrees in both French and psychology from the University of Oklahoma but moved to Los Angeles to pursue her graduate studies in the department of Applied Linguistics and Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) at UCLA. Since obtaining her Master’s degree from UCLA her focus has been on teaching and service. She has served on the CATESOL Board of Directors for over 8 years and has recently completed a 3-year term as President of this bi-state organization which helps ESL teaching professionals network and develop teaching skills.

Anastassia is full-time faculty with the USC American Language Institute and Adjunct Assistant Professor with Rossier School of Education where she has been developing and teaching courses for the award-winning MAT-TESOL online program.  Anastassia holds a M.A. in Applied Linguistics from Biola University and a B.A. in Economics from University of California, Irvine. Prior to her employment with USC, she served as ESL Program Director with Bethesda Christian University and BIOLA University (summer program). She has also worked with several publishers including Oxford University Press, Pearson Education, and Houghton-Mifflin developing ESL textbooks.  Anastassia’s greatest love is her family. Her three boys are active in theater, love music, and aspire to have a career in the arts.

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