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Last modified: Thursday, October 6, 2011

IU Bloomington chosen to establish nation's first Turkish Flagship program

Oct. 6, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Language Flagship, an initiative of the National Security Education Program within the U.S. Department of Defense, has chosen Indiana University Bloomington as the only location for its program in Turkish and other Turkic languages.

The undergraduate Turkish Flagship program will be led by Kemal Silay, director of the Turkish Studies Program and chair of Ottoman and Modern Turkish Studies in the IU College of Arts and Sciences.

Established with a projected three-year grant of $1.5 million, it will be IU's third such advanced language program, joining Chinese and Swahili Flagship programs that already have proven to be successful.

IU is the only institution in the United States to have been awarded three Language Flagships -- all based in the College of Arts and Sciences -- and is home to both the undergraduate and graduate level Chinese programs.

"Students increasingly must become proficient in languages other than their own in order to be successful and engaged citizens of a global society," said IU Provost and Executive Vice President Karen Hanson. "Through the language flagship programs -- in Chinese, Swahili and now Turkish -- Indiana University Bloomington is implementing new models of language instruction that will help our nation address key challenges related to global security and competitiveness."

David Zaret

Photo by Peter Stevenson

David Zaret

Print-Quality Photo

"Turkey and the Central Eurasian Turkic nations are strategically important to the United States for a wide range of geo-political issues," added David Zaret, IU vice president for international affairs. "I am extremely pleased that Indiana University has received this prestigious grant that will assist students to achieve high levels of proficiency in Turkish and use this program to acquire a proficiency in several other Turkic languages."

Silay, also a professor of Central Eurasian studies, will closely collaborate with Öner Özçelik, a Turkish applied linguist and an assistant professor of Turkish, and Umida Khikmatillaeva, project coordinator at the Center for Turkic and Iranian Lexicography and Dialectology. He also will work with a multidisciplinary team of support specialists -- ranging from theoretical and applied linguists to human-computer interaction (HCI) experts in order to establish and run the Turkish Flagship Center.

One unique element to the new Flagship program at IU is that students will have the opportunity to learn Turkish and use it as a bridge to learn another important Turkic language, Uzbek. After their first year, students who have learned modern Turkish will be given the opportunity to bridge to Uzbek, which is commonly spoken in Uzbekistan and elsewhere in Central Asia, and even become fluent in both languages. In the future, some students may expand to Azerbaijani, and Turkmen.

Once established, the cohort size will be 15 undergraduate students each year, who will be encouraged to major in other disciplines at IU (although they will be permitted to major in Turkic Studies). In addition to studying with IU faculty at Bloomington, students will study abroad at a partner university in Turkey and complete their capstone studies there.

IU Bloomington has strong programs focusing on the languages and cultures of Central Asia and has been a pioneer in using new and emerging technologies and researching the efficacy of bridging from more widely studied languages, like Turkish, to less commonly taught languages of Central Asia.

Its Center for Languages of the Central Asian Region and Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center are two of 10 international programs that have been awarded Title VI federal funding. The centers produce materials to promote the learning of strategically important languages. Among the other languages taught are Azerbaijani, Dari, Farsi, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Pashto, Persian, Tajik, Tibetan and Uyghur.

"IU is internationally renowned for its Turkish and Turkic studies. We have been teaching these languages for more than four decades and we have an exceptional range of scholarly and educational activities," observed Silay, a native of Turkey. "IU's institutional support for these programs was among the things that the Flagship institution took into consideration when making its decision."

The Language Flagship is a federally-funded effort and is a component of the National Security Education Program (NSEP) at the US Department of Defense. NSEP was created in 1991 to develop a much-needed strategic partnership between the national security community and higher education to address national needs for expertise in critical languages and regions.

NSEP is the only federally-funded effort focused on the combined issues of language proficiency, national security, and the needs of the federal workforce. In conjunction with technology and research-oriented investments, NSEP represents an integral component of a national security strategy to eliminate the serious language deficit in the federal government.

For more information about the Language Flagship, see