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EFS 687 for 2016
American Language and Culture: Silicon Valley

EFS 687 is a 4-week intensive program run in collaboration with VIA, a private, non-profit organization based at Stanford dedicated to Asia/US public service and education. VIA is responsible for recruiting students from select universities in China, Japan, Taiwan, and Korea for the two EFS 687 programs each summer. 2016 dates for both ALC 1 and ALC 2 are August 1-August 26. A major focus for this year's program is the language and culture of San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

This year, we anticipate a small number of openings for students who wish to apply directly to the program. To be eligible, a student must be currently attending or recently graduated from a university in East Asia or Southeast Asia. Prospective students should understand the overall goals and content of the program, which can be accessed at A minimum TOEFL score of 500 (paper)/173(computer)/61(iBT) or equivalent proficiency is required. Students need to submit an application and be interviewed (in person or over the phone) to be accepted to the program. If you are interested in applying, please contact Kazutoh Ishida ( at VIA.

EFS 687. American Language and Culture is designed to improve students' oral communication in English while providing analysis of and experience in a variety of topical sociocultural issues. This integration of the academic with the experiential offers students an enriching curriculum to further language development and to analyze aspects of US culture from a sociological perspective. Given the brevity of the course, we select four issues from the areas of diversity, innovations in decision-making, environmental initiatives, voluntarism, family, and stratification. These issues are addressed within the two classes which make up the course: Effective Communication and Topic Development.

Effective Communication

This class is concerned primarily with developing spoken language fluency. The emphasis here will vary according to level, with greater emphasis on listening comprehension at the lower levels and on oral presentation at the higher levels. All students will participate in small-group interactive tasks encouraged to increase their fluency in self-expression and their contributions to group discussions.

Topic Development

The objective of this class is to gain a sociological perspective on the issues listed earlier. Through readings and videotapes, students explore and discuss topics with the guidance of the instructor. To ensure a common frame of reference, a weekly lecture is taught by instructors from the Department of Sociology. In addition to the morning lectures, the students will be introduced to research methods and tools by means of laboratory simulations at other times. Each week the English instructors will prepare students for the lecture and follow up with review, discussion, and evaluation of comprehension. A course reader will provide related readings for orientation to lecture topics and for further analysis.

Individual Projects

To enable students to explore their individual interests as well as their class topics in greater depth, the course requires each student to complete an individual project. With the help of the Topic Development instructor, students choose to design and conduct either library-based research or a community survey. The project culminates in a written report of the results for Topic Development and in a final oral report presented for fellow students in Effective Communication.

Placement and Class Schedule

Upon arrival the students are divided into six sections of approximately eleven students each according to their level of aural/oral proficiency on the placement exam. Effective Communication and Topic Development each meet for 90 minutes every morning, Monday through Friday, for a total of 60 instructional hours over the four weeks. Given the program's emphasis on promoting oral communication, the placement exam assesses aural/oral skills rather than grammar or writing abilities. Following a thirty-minute multiple-choice listening test, the students are interviewed individually. Students are assigned to sections based on the results of both tests and other factors such as the gender ratio and university/country of origin. This ensures not only diversity in backgrounds, but also exclusive use of English during class sessions.


Instructors in this program are highly qualified in terms of education and experience. The English instructors have Masters' or PhD degrees, typically in teaching English as a second language, with an average of ten years' teaching experience. In addition to teaching in the US, many have taught abroad or worked as professional writers. During the regular academic year, most teach undergraduate students similar to those in this program, students who have matriculated at Bay Area colleges. The instructors who lecture on sociology to the whole group are Ph.D. candidates in sociology at Stanford; they have experience teaching undergraduate courses in sociology to American students. All instructors are evaluated in writing by students at the end of the session.


At the end of the course instructors meet individually with students to provide feedback on their progress. While they comment on the students' proficiency, credit in the four-week course is determined by the quality of students' completion of assignments, active class participation, and overall effort. The individual project is evaluated as an oral report in Effective Communication and as a written report in Topic Development. Grades are awarded on the scale of A, B, C, D and no pass (failure), with + and - modifications.

                      Updated December 7, 2015