UW’s STARTALK Prepares Teachers and Russian Heritage Speakers for STEM and a Mission to Mars

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 […]

By |September 12th, 2016|Educators|0 Comments

FLAS Notes from the Field: Discovering Prague between the Tourist Sites

By Alison Knight

University of Washington Slavic Languages and Literatures M.A. student Alison Knight recently returned from studying Czech in Prague on a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship (FLAS). When not in class, Alison spent time exploring the magnificent architecture and rich culture of the city. In the process, she came to know a country which is as interesting for its history and art as it is for its people:

“In the summer in Prague it can be hard to see the city through the tourists. In Prague’s Old Town Square (Staroměstské Náměstí), tour guides find new ways to draw attention to themselves so the crowds they lead can keep track of them, and it’s equally common to have to stop to let a horse-drawn carriage pass as it is to give a group of tourists on Segways the right of way. And while I can’t blame people for wanting to walk over Charles Bridge (Karlův Most) or watch the Old Town Hall’s Astronomical Clock chime, I was grateful to be living in the far less-frequented district of Prague 6, not only for the opportunity to speak Czech with people in the neighborhood, but also to experience a less curated version of Prague. Walking from the dorm to class, I would pass cafes and stores revealing Prague’s active place in our modern, globalized world. For example, I would walk past a cafe in which a camera crew was shooting a film and then towards a shop with Japanese groceries and gifts, all surrounded by the Czech restaurants and small shops that still dominate the neighborhood.

Most of the day in my Czech language program was devoted to classes and cultural activities, including museum visits to view Czech historical artifacts in celebration of the […]

By |September 6th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

FLAS Notes from the Field: Ancient Practices in Modern Croatia

By Arna Elezovic

UW History Ph.D. candidate Arna Elezovic is currently on a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship (FLAS) at the University of Zadar in Croatia. Arna is also exploring the country’s spectacular Dalmatian coast and its hinterland, where she discovered that Croatian sea salt is still produced in an ancient way:

“Croatia is one of the newer members of the European Union, having joined the EU only in 2013, but already in the few short weeks here as a FLAS fellow, I have seen many examples of how ancient history dominates the Dalmatian coast. The ancient Roman presence is particularly notable in both in architecture of cities and even some industries. One example is the Nin Salt Works, or Nin Solana, along the central northern Dalmatian coast, which harvests salt in much the same way that the Romans did. Located at the shallow lagoon of the Nin bay near the town of Zadar, Nin Solana covers about 55 hectares. The salt works are also classified as an environmental preserve because 280 species of migratory birds stop at the salt works during their annual migrations. Salt is collected in open fields, which in the spring are filled with seawater. One of the ancient Roman water gates remains in a field. Then over summer the water evaporates going through five stages, where the most of the sea salt stays at the bottom, when it finally is manually “harvested” in crystallized form in the autumn. There is one type of salt that is harvested from the surface of the water with a wooden sieve.

It is nice to see the country rebounding from the war in the 1990s. The salt works are a family owned business operating on government owned land, and the business […]

By |August 15th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Bringing New Vitality to Uyghur Performance: The RISE Collaborative at the Seattle Asian Art Museum

By Darren Byler

On a Tuesday evening in March, American and Uyghur dancers wheeled across the rough stone floor of the Seattle Asian Art Museum. They were moving to the rhythms and countermelodies of a Uyghur ecstatic tradition: the Dolan Muqam. Building slowly from an arrhythmic introduction, high and echoing around the room, gradually this form of traditional Uyghur music emerged into a full-formed twirling dance around a taut rhythm. The sound and tense rhythms that filled the room came from the voice and resonator guitar of a single man: the Uyghur rock star Perhat Khaliq.

Of course the space was also filled by a sold-out crowd, people pressed close on carpets and chairs that surrounded the room. Uyghurs had come from all over the state. They came from Portland and Vancouver. They came to celebrate Uyghur music and dance. They came to see Khaliq and the RISE collaboration – an experimental performance and video piece conceptualized by the American visual artist Lisa Ross in creative partnership with Uyghur ethnomusicologist, traditional dancer and choreographer Mukaddas Mijit. The creation of the work was made possible by a residency at the Watermill Center in rural Long Island, New York where the three artists came together from France and China. It was Khaliq’s first visit to the United States and after his longstanding friendship with Mijit, it was the first time the two had created a new work together.

In New York, Ross invited Indah Walsh, a New York City-based contemporary dancer and choreographer, and members of the Indah Walsh Dance Company to join. Together with Mijit and Khaliq, the eight performers produced a series of stunning performances of video, music and dance that culminated in the Seattle premiere of […]

By |August 11th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

FLAS Notes from the Field: Finding Russia in Seattle

By Mary-Elizabeth Mayer

UW Jackson School of International Studies undergraduate Mary-Elizabeth Mayer is currently on a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship (FLAS) to study intensive Russian language at the University of Washington in Seattle. As she masters Russian grammar and vocabulary, Mary-Elizabeth is also exploring Seattle’s rich Russian community, which has close ties to the Ellison Center for Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies.

“Discovering new cultures in a foreign city is always exhilarating, but over the past month I have discovered that understanding existing cultures in my own city is equally exciting! While many FLAS recipients choose to travel abroad with their summer funding, I chose to stay in Seattle and continue my Russian language studies at the University of Washington’s Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. I knew that my class would be interesting, challenging, and that I would end up with more knowledge of Russian grammar than I would know what to do with. What I underestimated was how much I would learn about Russian culture while taking a language class – and how much of it was already around me.

A twenty minute walk up University Way (affectionately known as “The Ave”), past the colorful shops, secondhand stores, and dozens of multi-cultural restaurants, stands a squat, unassuming building that hosts Continent Books,  a store that represents the presence of the Russian community in America. My Russian professor, a wonderful woman born and raised in Sochi during the Soviet era, warmly greets the shop owner in a flurry of Russian I strain to follow. The fifteen of us students crammed into the tiny store that serves as the Mecca for Russian-language literature in Seattle, where books of every shape, genre, and size were jammed together in a labyrinth of possibilities. […]

By |August 8th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

What’s in a Name? How 2 Million People have been blocked from EU Membership based on their national identity

By Kevin P. Bassney

The name dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is one of the longest lasting and least known conflicts in the world today. The people of FYROM identify as “Macedonians” and want their country to be recognized as “The Republic of Macedonia,” but many Greek citizens identify as Macedonians and claim that FYROM is appropriation of their history and culture.  Greece has blocked FYROM from joining NATO and the EU because of the dispute, and FYROM, a country of 2 million people, has stagnated both politically and economically for over 25 years. This stagnation troubles the Western world because the weak states throughout the Western Balkans (such as Kosovo, Bosnia, and Montenegro) and FYROM represents a critical security gap, especially in light of the refugee crisis. Though my work for President Gjorge Ivanov of Macedonia, Hellenic Foundation for European & Foreign Policy in Athens, and the National Democratic Institute in Skopje, I have had the opportunity to work on all sides of the name dispute; and I truly believe that strong intervention from senior leaders in the international community is required to break this diplomatic deadlock and find a solution.

Currently, FYROM is in a state of disarray with 25% unemployment, a major political crisis over wiretapping, and an inability to handle the ongoing refugee crisis. Either directly or indirectly, all of these problems have a root cause in the country’s name dispute. This economic and political malaise, accompanied for some by a sense of exclusion from the greater community around them, has led to the radicalization of some fringe elements. Additionally, the lack of economic opportunity has led to a resurgence of organized crime throughout the region, with […]

By |August 4th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

FLAS Notes from the Field: Tracing the Former Western Border of Belarus

By Chris Collison

UW Jackson School of International Studies M.A. student Chris Collison is currently on a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship (FLAS) at the Belarusian State University in Minsk, Belarus. Chris is also exploring the country with his camera and the deep regional knowledge he has gained in the Jackson School’s Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies program (REECAS) and the Ellison Center at the University of Washington.

“For much of its history, Minsk has found itself at the crossroads of civilizations. Belarusians are well aware of the past and embrace their heritage as a transit hub for merchants and warriors who traversed Europe as the borders of various empires shifted eastward and then back again. Belarus acquired its current boundaries at the dawn of the Second World War, when the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact paved the way for the German and Soviet invasion of Poland. The two powers divided the country among themselves and managed their conquered territories separately until the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. At the end of the war, Poland was liberated from Nazi Germany, but its borders were shifted westward and the eastern, Soviet-occupied eastern regions were incorporated into Lithuania, Ukraine, and Belarus. More than 70 years later, that legacy can still be found in small towns and villages on opposite sides of the old border. As a FLAS Fellow in Belarus for summer 2016, I hoped to document through photos ways that Belarus’s history as a crossroads of cultures still persists.

I set out with three Belarusians and a Pole to retrace some of the old Soviet-Polish border. We headed toward the Minsk suburb of Dzerzhinsk, named after Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the notorious Soviet secret police. Dzerzhinsky was born in […]

By |August 1st, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

FLAS Notes from the Field: Poland’s Open Air Village Museum

By Nathan Marks

UW Slavic Languages and Literatures graduate student Nathan Marks is currently on a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship (FLAS) at John Paul II Catholic University in Lublin, Poland. Nathan’s Polish language and culture program also includes regional excursions, such as this recent visit to a museum of village life.

“On Sunday July 17th we traveled not far outside of the city to the Muzeum Wsi Lubelskiej. It was a wet and stormy day which, though it made our shoes and clothes wet and muddy, reminded us that this was how Poles lived in times past. Though made of straw, the roofs were watertight and the interior of the old village homes were cool and dry with decor ranging from tools to dolls and toys. 

The Muzeum Wsi Lubelskiej is an Open Air Village Museum in Lublin located in the valley of the Czechówka River. It is one of the biggest open air museums in Poland and shows the cultural diversity of the province along with rich architecture and exhibits. It gathers items related to the former way of life in the village, in the manor, and in the small town. It also preserves knowledge about the customs, rituals, traditions, and everyday work of historical Polish life.

The museum in Lublin is a permanent public institution of knowledge and science which specializes in creating, preserving and sharing both material and cultural heritage and social background. The institution plays a significant educational and societal role in popularizing both aesthetic and intellectual needs. This role defines cultural identity as a mediator between the interpreted past and the created future.

Though it was rainy and wet, there were still many other groups and families taking in the educational and cultural experience that the […]

By |July 25th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

FLAS Notes from the Field: Russia’s Great Cities

By Molly O’Brien

UW junior and electrical engineering major Molly O’Brien is currently on a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship (FLAS) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, where she is studying at CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange). During her studies, she is also exploring Russia’s other cities, learning about their pace of life and even how their citizens take their coffee.

“This week I returned to St. Petersburg from my long weekend in Moscow. Both cities are so Russian in nature, but such a stark contrast appears between them. The street sign marking Red Square has the number 1, meaning that all streets radiate out from the Kremlin, a typical layout for such an old settlement. St. Petersburg, established many years later, resembles a planned grid. The political and economic center of Russia, Moscow conveys a fast-paced lifestyle; while St. Petersburg, considered to be the cultural center, is not so focused on efficiency. Coffee “с собой” (to go) is available here these days, but Peterburzhtsi (Petersburgers, perhaps?) are not eager to embrace the idea. Both cities represent different perspectives, but I found myself more inclined to call Petersburg home upon returning.”

Russia’s two most major cities have distinct personalities and enjoy a spirited rivalry, as suggested by the joke one of Molly’s professor’s shared with CIEE students:

“A young man is sitting on the subway. An old woman gets on, and he stands up to offer his seat. “Садитесь, пожалуйста.” (Please, have a seat). The old woman sits down and tells him that he must be from St. Petersburg, since in Moscow, they would never say “Садитесь, пожалуйста.” A few minutes pass, and the young man remarks that she must be from Moscow. She confirms this, and asks how […]

By |July 21st, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

University of Washington Translator Michael Biggins on Lojze Kovacic’s “Newcomers” 7/20 in DC and 7/21 in NYC

By Michael Biggins, Translator and UW Slavic Librarian

Archipelago Books, a New York-based non-profit publisher that in the ten years it has existed has made major contributions to the availability of great works of world literature in English translation, is now making its first venture in Slovene literature with the publication of Newcomers, a highly autographical novel by Lojze Kovačič (1928-2004) that was first published in Slovenia in the mid-1980s.   A Bildungsroman that follows its protagonist’s maturation from young boy to young man over the course of the twentieth century’s most tumultuous decade – from 1938 to 1948 –each of the three volumes of Newcomers focuses on a progressively higher stage in the process of growth, from the young boy’s search for safety and his quest for power in Book One, to the adolescent’s discovery of sex and love in Book Two, and culminating in the young man’s emergence as a gifted creative artist in Book Three.  The arc of this development takes place amid extreme material deprivation, inter-ethnic hostility, occupation by Axis powers, civil war and revolution, all of which marked life in the northwest corner of Yugoslavia at the time.  As a fifty-five-year-old narrator looking back, Kovačič does a seamless job of channeling his boyhood, adolescent and young adult selves – all of them preternaturally observant – to produce one of the most perceptive and vibrant accounts of that time available in any literature.  Newcomers is often referred to as the great twentieth-century Slovenian novel.  Book One, which Archipelago just published this May, will be followed by Books Two and Three in English translation in 2018 and 2019.

Michael Biggins will speak on his translation of Lojze Kovačič’s Newcomers on July 20th at the Library […]

By |July 18th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments