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George Vlahakis

Last modified: Monday, May 13, 2002

New national center for Central Asian languages to open at IU

Indiana University will open a new Central Asia, Azerbaijan and Afghanistan Language Resource Center in August within the College of Arts and Sciences on the Bloomington campus.

The center, to be funded under a Title VI U.S. Department of Education grant totaling $1.5 million over a four-year period, has as its initial mission the development of proficiency-oriented language and cultural curricular materials for five languages: Pashto (Afghanistan), Tajik (Tajikistan), Turkmen (Turkmenistan), Uyghur (Uyghur Autonomous Region of Xingjian Province, northwestern China) and Uzbek (Uzbekistan) at introductory and intermediate levels.

The new center will be directed by William Fierman, associate professor and director of IU's Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center.

The language center will assemble teams of native speakers with applied linguistics and language teaching experience to develop curricular materials in collaboration with second-language acquisition researchers specialized in computer-assisted language learning.

It also will draw upon IU resources in IAUNRC, applied linguistics, the Department of Central Eurasian Studies, and the departments of Language Education and Instructional Systems Technology in the School of Education.

"At Indiana University, we are proud of our role as a leader in international and language studies," said IU President Myles Brand. "World events of the past year have been a powerful reminder of the need for international scholarship. This grant will enhance our efforts to improve understanding of this important part of the world."

Pashto and Uyghur are the two languages to be worked on in the first year of the grant. The goal is to produce integrated sets of language learning materials, including student manuals, teachers' guides and interactive CD-ROMs for supplemental communicative language activities.

After the initial four years, the new center expects to apply for additional funding to develop materials for other languages such as Azeri (Azerbaijan), Kazakh (Kazakhstan) and Kyrgyz (Kyrgyzstan).

Central Eurasia -- home to some of the world's greatest art, epic literature and fabled empires -- is the vast heartland that extends from Central Europe to East Asia and from Siberia to the Himalayas. With this area now taking on vital national and global significance, Congress approved an unprecedented 26 percent increase in funding for 2002 to support international studies programs nationwide.

Special funds were allocated to establish three new Title VI language resource centers devoted to three regions deemed critical to national needs: Central Asia, the Middle East and South Asia. IU's new language resource center will complement five national resource centers for area studies already at IU.

These highly competitive Title VI grants and fellowships have been crucial in helping U.S. institutions of higher education to establish and maintain national resource centers of excellence in foreign languages and area or international studies.

"Title VI has been in the forefront of funding for international research and teaching," said Patrick O'Meara, IU dean for international programs, "and it continues to have a major influence on national thinking about strategic world areas."