UAH student Josephine Severance receives CLS award to study Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan

Josephine Severance Picture
Josephine Severance, a digital animation major at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) has received a 2024 Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to study Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan this summer. CLS is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State as an initiative of its Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Michael Mercier | UAH

Josephine Severance, a digital animation major at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), will study Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan this summer as a participant in the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. UAH is a part of The University of Alabama System.

Six other UAH students were previously chosen for the CLS program, an initiative of the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The program “is designed to promote rapid language gains and essential intercultural fluency in regions that are critical to U.S. national security and economic prosperity,” according to the CLS website.

Severance began their CLS journey with a CLS Spark award for summer 2023, studying Mandarin virtually through the LTL Language School in Singapore. That experience qualified them to apply for the CLS in-person Chinese language program this year.

“I’m very happy that I’ve been able to grow within this program,” Severance says. “It’s helped me to track my progress from relatively beginner status to where I am now. I can’t even imagine what I’ll be like once this summer is over.”

Severance says the online CLS Spark has improved their Mandarin reading comprehension significantly since they began the program in June 2023. After that summer intensive, they continued the program with sessions during the fall 2023 and spring 2024 semesters.

“I’m looking forward to improving my speaking over the summer because that’s still something I struggle with even though I’m very proud of how far my reading has come.”

Severance had personal and professional reasons for studying Mandarin. A best friend who is Chinese American first inspired their interest in Chinese language and culture back in grade school. In the digital animation program at UAH, they learned that fluency in the language could enhance their job prospects in an international industry where people from China play a significant role.

Vinny Argentina, UAH associate professor of art – animation and game design, told Severance that gaming studios in the U.S. often outsource animation or 3D work to studios in China, and communication issues can be a problem.

“He reiterated to me that having someone who not only has the experience with the language but also has experience with the industry itself and the actual work that’s being done will help bridge those communication gaps a lot better. It’s one thing to translate what people are saying, but it’s another thing to actually know the materials that are being translated. Being able to understand the workflow when you’re translating will be a lot of help. It’s something I’m looking into as a career.”

Severance hopes to be able to visit an animation studio or two while living in Taiwan.

“The different ways the studios operate in the West and the East has always been fascinating to me. I’m excited that I could work in an animation studio in China or Taiwan, and I could get this hands-on experience. It’s not just something I could study; it’s something I could actually do as a job.”

Severance is also excited about a face-to-face meeting with friends they made during CLS Spark. These friends will be at another program site in the city of Tainan while Severance will be studying at Tamkang University in New Taipei City.

“Taiwan’s public transportation system is really nice, so I’m hoping to get together with all the people that I met last summer and over this academic year who will also be in the country.”