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Samantha Faces her Fears and Masters a New Language

Samantha with her host family from Turkey.

Growing up in Minnesota, Samantha Stocker never imagined she would one day be conversing comfortably in Turkish with a group of friends in Turkey. But thats exactly what happened during her academic year abroad as part of the NSLI-Y program. I was leaving school and two boys from my class were eating across the street. In Turkish, we say 'afiyet olsun' when someone is eating; it is the equivalent of the French 'bon apptit'. Of course I said it to them, recalled Stocker, who recently returned home to Minnesota after spending her junior year abroad in Samsun, Turkey. They responded 'Saol kardeim!' 'Thanks, my sister.' The fact they said 'my sister' does not mean they consider me a sister. Turks call each other names other than their given names all the time. But the fact remains that he said that to me without thinking. Therefore he doesn't think of me any differently than Feyza or Elif (other Turkish girls in our class). Stocker credits her Turkish friends and classmates with helping her master a completely new language. Lots of people are patient when they realized that you are learning Turkish. They talk slowly and use basic vocabulary, she said. Many of my classmates would ask me if I understood what was going on or if I needed help. My classmates were very good at helping me understand Turkish. Stocker traveled to the city along the coast of the Black Sea after only once previously leaving the United States. I had only left the United States once before this year. I was in Canada for about 24 hours, she said. Being an exchange student doesn't mean you are a great world traveler. I wanted to see the world outside my small town in Minnesota. Then I wanted to bring back what I saw and share it with everyone who would listen, Stocker said, adding: Once the 'exchange bug' bites someone, it is hard to get rid of. She lived with a Turkish family, which included a mother, father, grandmother and three host sisters. I chose Turkish as my first choice on the NSLI-Y application, Stocker explained. Turkey is such a complex country that very few Americans know about. Before I left, I heard a lot of conflicting views on what life is like in Turkey. Turns out, almost everything I heard is true. Someone's life in Istanbul or Izmir is totally different from Samsun or Ordu, which is totally different from someone in Van or Diyarbakir, cities in the Southeast part of the country. This sometimes added difficulty to understanding the culture, but also was very interesting. Facing her fears about leaving her family and friends for 10 months, Stocker said she still felt overwhelmed upon her arrival. But beginning language classes, getting to know her family and meeting up with the other American students participating in the program helped her acclimate. Stocker said she hopes to return to Turkey at some point in the future. If anything, this program has given me the confidence to pursue whatever I wish. She strongly recommended the program, particularly for those interested in learning a new language. Anyone who participates in a program like this will grow and learn so much, both about yourself and the world. Seeing the world from a new mindset, even if you don't accept this as your own, is so valuable, she said. NSLI-Y is great especially if you have a strong desire to learn the language. There are a lot of really hard parts of being an exchange student, but it is all worth it. I would never give up all I learned and experienced in this past year.

The next generation of global professionals

The Language Flagship leads the nation in designing, supporting, and implementing a new paradigm for advanced language education. Through an innovative partnership among the federal government, education, and business, The Language Flagship graduates students who will take their place among the next generation of global professionals, commanding a superior level of fluency in one of many languages critical to U.S. competitiveness and security.

What is a critical language?

The U.S. Government has designated all Flagship-supported languages as critical languages because the national need for trained speakers in those languages exceeds the number of bilingual speakers available. These languages are also critical for U.S. national security and economic competitiveness. The perception that these languages are too complex and difficult to learn for most English-speakers has resulted in too few critical language speakers. Flagship programs are intended to change that perception. Although these languages can be more challenging and take longer to learn, they are not harder. The Language Flagship has proven that Flagship languages can be learned by English-speakers to the professional level within four to five years.

Flagship Centers and Programs

The Language Flagship is a national initiative to change the way Americans learn languages through a groundbreaking approach to language education for students from kindergarten through college. The program leads the nation in designing, supporting, and implementing a new paradigm for advanced language education. Through an innovative partnership among the federal government, education, and business, The Language Flagship graduates students who will take their place among the next generation of global professionals, commanding a superior level of proficiency in languages critical to U.S. competitiveness and security. Flagship Centers and Flagship Partner Programs offer students intensive language instruction to enhance their academic degrees through the achievement of ACTFL Superior (ILR Level 3) language proficiency and cultural competence. Programs are available at the undergraduate level and include periods of rigorous language and cultural immersion at Overseas Flagship Centers. The Language Flagship also funds a select number of pilot K12 programs designed to provide an articulated path of language instruction for students from elementary school through college. Bold, intensive, adventurous, usefulthese are some of the words our graduates have used to describe The Language Flagship. Our program is unique because it offers: Intensive language and culture instruction, including group training and individual tutoring, in a U.S. university setting Advanced language and long- term cultural immersion overseas where students directly enroll in foreign universities Language immersion internships through our public-private partnership with international organizations and corporations The opportunity to attain professional-level language proficiency alongside a non-language academic major of students choosing

What languages does The Language Flagship offer?

Flagship languages include Arabic, Chinese, Hindi and Urdu, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Swahili and Turkish.

2012 Flagship Institutional Program Statistics

26 Flagship Centers and Programs 10 Overseas Flagship Programs 3 K12 Flagship Programs

Arabic Chinese Hindi/Urdu Japanese Korean Persian/Farsi Russian

Critical Languages at the University of Maryland

What are they, actually?

The notion of the "critical languages" is one of supply and demand. Any language for which more trained speakers are needed than are available may be considered critical. The reason for the inadequate numbers of speakers is often the difficulty of a language for the learning population. In addition, the national need for a critical language usually involves political, cultural, or economic factors. A critical language is not necessarily an "LCTL" ("Less Commonly Taught Language"), a term referring only to the "supply" aspect of language policy. In much of the world, for example, English is clearly a critical language, but it cannot be considered "less commonly taught" because it is the most commonly taught foreign language in most countries. English is critical around the world because more speakers are needed than exist. Other countries' need for English has to do with the speed of the world's economic integration in the past 60 years or so.

Why are they special? Why do so few Americans study them?

In the case of the languages that are considered "critical" in the United States, there are two main factors. First, these languages are wildly different from English. Did I say wildly? The grammar will be totally different. The writing systems are totally different - some of these languages don't even use alphabets, in the way we understand the term. And there are very few "cognate" words - words closely related to English words - certainly far fewer than in French, Spanish, and so on. All these things make a language more challenging for the English-speaker to learn. Second, the countries where these things are spoken are enormously different from the U.S. and the most "critical" ones do not have very good (or anyway very stable) relationships with the U.S. That means that it's especially important that people in the U.S. get a better understanding of how the people in those countries think, what they want, and how they live. You can't do any of those things without language - language is the single most important tool for solving these problems. So that's why these languages are so important. And, if you study one seriously, you will accumulate knowledge that is exceptionally valuable, and that few other people in the U.S. are going to have in your lifetime. People will tell you that these languages are harder for English-speakers than more commonly studied languages French and Spanish. It's true. They take longer to learn, and the learning process can go on for much of your life, if you let it. In truth, a lot of people you know probably aren't interested in the challenge of studying something like this. But these languages can definitely be learned by English-speakers; that's one of the things that Maryland's faculty specializes in, actually. The challenge I've been describing is exactly why these languages are among the most rewarding things you can spend your time studing in this life. It's hard to imagine anything other than a language that could be rich and complex enough for us to be able to study it from the age of 18 or 20 until we grow old. But how hard are they, really? You may not have thought of it this way, but, unlike other programs of study in the University, a language curriculum is not very hard as long as you keep up with the work from class to class. The subject is presented in a systematic way, and the important thing is not so much that you should have original insights as that you should master a set of skills that are understood but not widespread in our country. You can take non-language courses that will satisfy your other University requirements, such as CORE, literature, history, and so on, and all the while you will be learning more about the culture in which your language is spoken. So the difficulty of a critical language lies in how different it is from English, not in the actual tasks you, as a student, have to undertake to learn it. Steady work leads to real progress. So terribly few Americans study these languages that someone who is well trained in one of them has a skill that is very precious on the job market. A lot of money is available for advanced (graduate) study in these languages, and more and more high-paying jobs ask for training in them.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Three CAORC Member Centers Awarded NEH Grants

Contact: Dr. Mary Ellen Lane, Executive Director, Council of American Overseas Research Centers; 202-6331599;

Three CAORC Member Centers Awarded NEH Grants

The Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC) is pleased to announce that three American Overseas Research Centers received grants in the 2012-2013 competition for Fellowship Programs at Independent Research Institutions (FPIRI) from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). NEH grants for Fellowship Programs at Independent Research Institutions support fellowships at institutions devoted to advanced study and research in the humanities, such as American Overseas Research Centers. These NEH fellowships provide scholars with research time and access to resources that might not be available at their home institutions. Since 1991, the American Research Institute in Turkey (ARIT) NEH Fellowship program has provided fellowships for advanced scholars who wish to carry out long-term research in Turkey in affiliation with an ARIT center in Istanbul and/or Ankara. Fellowship tenures range from four months to one year. The fields of study cover all periods of history in the general range of the humanities, and include humanistically oriented aspects of the social sciences, prehistory, history, art, archaeology, literature, and linguistics, as well as interdisciplinary aspects of cultural history. Funded fellows will make use of the extensive and diverse archival and cultural resources that are accessible to researchers in Turkey. The ARIT program will support from one to three fellows each year for three years, beginning in 2013. Since 1993, the NEH Fellowship program at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) has given U.S. scholars the opportunity to conduct research in Greece and utilize the many excellent resources available at the ASCSA. As the ASCSAs most prestigious fellowship earmarked exclusively for post -doctoral scholars to carry out research in the humanities, the NEH fellowships are an important part of the Schools overall fellowship program, providing over 50 fellowships annually to students, teachers, and scholars. Each fellowship, through its selection criteria, contributes to the diverse academic community at the ASCSA. For 16 years, the NEH fellowship program has been a major fa ctor in establishing the Schools reputation as the premier overseas research center for the study of the Greek world. Research by NEH fellows on humanities topics results in publications, lectures, and conferences that reach a broad audience of scholars, students, and the general public in the U.S. and abroad. The Palestinian American Research Center (PARC) NEH FPIRI Fellowship program will give PARC an opportunity to focus attention on post-doctoral humanities research on Palestine. Beginning in 2013 PARC will award one to two fellowships each year for three years, with fellows receiving from four to eight months of support. The NEH grant will assist PARC in expanding the pool of scholars specializing in Palestinian studies and building the body of scholarship on Palestine. Since 1998, PARC has awarded almost 180 fellowships to American and Palestinian doctoral and post-doctoral scholars in diverse fields ranging from medicine to cultural anthropology. In addition to a small but rich library of scholarship on Jerusalem, PARC cosponsors conferences and seminars in Palestine and the United States and offers a panel at the Middle East Studies Association each year.

Why learning Turkish Language?

WHY IS TURKISH LANGUAGE IMPORTANT? Turkish is among the top ten languages spoken in the world. Turkey is an emerging economic power with geographical and political ties to Central Asian and Middle Eastern nations. Turkey has long, rich history which includes important Biblical events and the development of the some of the earliest human civilizations. Turkish is a key language for many academic positions in the United States and Europe. Turkish belongs to a language family which includes more than thirty Turkic languages spoken in Central Asia, the Caucasus, Siberia and Northern China as well as in the Middle East, Balkans, and Europe. Raindrop Turkish House currently teaches beginning and intermediate Turkish classes in 14 cities in Texas and its neighboring states, including Oklahoma, Mississippi, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Arkansas. Turkey has long served as a meeting point and cultural bridge between East and West. Turkish economy is the sixth largest in Europe and fourteenth largest in the world. Turkey has been a powerful ally of United States and a member of NATO for many years. Turkish is a phonetic language that is written in Latin alphabet and pronounced as it is written.

National Security Language Initiative & Turkish

In January 2006, President Bush announced the National Security Language Initiative (NSLI), an inter-agency effort coordinated by the White House to increase dramatically the number of Americans learning, speaking, and teaching critical-need, foreign languages. Foreign language skills are essential for engaging foreign governments and peoples, especially in critical world regions, and for promoting understanding, conveying respect for other cultures, and encouraging reform. These skills are also fundamental to the economic competitiveness and security interests of the Nation. NSLI programs target the Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Russian languages and the Indic, Persian, and Turkic language families, as determined by the four agencies.