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India Studies

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East Asian Languages and Cultures

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Last modified: Monday, June 1, 2009

IU awarded nearly $290,000 in federal STARTALK grants for Chinese, Hindi and Urdu language programs

June 1, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Two centers in Indiana University's College of Arts and Sciences have received nearly $290,000 in additional federal funding to educate middle- and high school teachers and students in three strategic languages spoken in some of the most populated countries -- Chinese, Hindi and Urdu.

Learning Chinese

Twenty middle- and high-school students will participate in the STARTALK-funded program.

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The National Security Language Initiative (NSLI) has awarded IU's Center for Chinese Language Pedagogy two STARTALK grants totaling $169,993 to continue a teacher training program in Mandarin Chinese for 20 middle- and high school instructors and for a new four-week language program for 20 secondary school students.

IU's India Studies Program also was awarded $119,999 in STARTALK funding for a four-week residential immersion program for high school students in Hindi and Urdu, two languages largely spoken in India and Pakistan.

Both student programs begin on June 22 at IU Bloomington. A small number of openings remain for students interested in learning each language. Other than a $100 registration fee for the Mandarin program, which is due after being accepted, the grants cover other program costs for students.

The STARTALK program seeks to expand and improve the teaching and learning of strategically important world languages that are not now widely taught in the United States. It is the newest of NSLI's component programs announced by former President George W. Bush in January 2006.

Both units last year received total, initial STARTALK funding of about $204,000.

Summer Intensive Program

Field trips are an enjoyable aspect of the Hindi/Urdu program.

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The free summer intensive program for Hindi and Urdu provides the equivalent of one semester of university-level instruction. Between June 22 and July 17, students will meet in 20 hours of classes each week and participate in cultural activities. They will go on field trips to cultural sites and learn about the south Indian classical dance Bharatnatyum, south Indian carnatic music, yoga, and even popular sports such as cricket and kabbadi.

"Our goals are for the participating students to acquire the linguistic and cultural competence to communicate successfully in the language, and obtain various learning strategies and skills," said Sungok Hong, a lecturer and Hindi-Urdu language coordinator in the India Studies Program. "Students will have a deeper understanding of the culture and learn the importance of culturally appropriate behavior."

Twenty students from Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, California and Hawaii have been accepted for the Hindi and Urdu program.

Brian Flaherty, coordinator of the Center for Chinese Language Pedagogy, said their student program offers a solid introduction for students who later will learn Chinese in a traditional instructional setting, and bridges the gap for others who are using educational resources available online. Students will get an introduction to Chinese language and culture, including basic listening, speaking, reading and writing skills.

"Right now there are a lot of online resources for studying Chinese. But if you don't have the personal experience working with a fluent speaker, then it can be hard, if not impossible, to master the fundamentals of the language on your own," Flaherty said. "The idea is to give the students a jumpstart. This is going to give them the means to continue studying and advance their level until they have an opportunity to study again in a formal program."

According to the Asia Society and the College Board, there were 779 Chinese programs in high schools across the country in 2008, up from 263 schools four years earlier. Two summers ago, Indiana became the first state to adopt East Asian language standards -- state-level standards specific to Chinese, Japanese and Korean languages.

Hindi is the official language of India and is spoken by about 800 million people worldwide. Urdu, the national language of Pakistan, is spoken by about 180 million people worldwide.

More information about the summer intensive program for Hindi and Urdu is available online at

More information about the STARTALK Chinese programs is available online at