By Fatih Thompson
I was one of 13 lucky teachers who got to participate in this summer’s STARTALK teacher program, July 6-22 at the University of Washington. The STARTALK teacher program is a nationwide initiative launched by the National Security Language Initiative (NSLI) to increase the number of Americans speaking critical languages (e.g. Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Hindi, Persian, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, and Urdu). It aims to maximize the effectiveness of the pedagogical techniques used by instructors. It complements another summer program, this one for students who are heritage speakers of these languages, which centers around real-life use of the language in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields.
Even though I’m a teacher of English to speakers of other languages, I was fortunate enough to be accepted to the program because I’m also a heritage speaker of Turkish. This made the program’s focus on heritage speakers particularly interesting, as I could relate to many aspects of heritage speaker learning myself. I also found a lot of the information was transferable to my profession and useful to improve my own instructional practices. Each instructor was given the opportunity to take the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) written and oral proficiency exams, which are a key step to becoming certified to teach a foreign language in the K-12 system. It felt good to have this under my belt in case I work in a field which requires proof of my Turkish proficiency in the future.
The STARTALK student program is designed to integrate the Russian language with STEM fields and to showcase the vast career opportunities students have access to with their knowledge of the Russian language.
This year the UW hosted around 20 high school […]