MODL Faculty Awarded Important Grants for Critical Languages

Friday, Aug 04, 2023 • Original Source : UTA NEWS

The National Security Agency (NSA) has awarded The University of Texas at Arlington two STARTALK grants to train secondary and postsecondary teachers in five critical languages—Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Persian and Russian—and help create a Russian immersion program for students.

The NSA’s goal is to help develop language education skills for teachers and students and meet future national security needs. This will be the second and third time the Department of Modern Languages is a recipient for the teacher program grant and student program grant, respectively. The nearly $400,000 in grants will provide these programs free to eligible participants.

“We’re really glad to be receiving these two grants to continue focusing on teaching toward career readiness and preparing students for those critical language careers,” said Iya Price, assistant professor of instruction in Russian and the projects’ principal investigator (PI). “This is good work that will not only serve the UTA community, but the entire Metroplex and beyond.”

The STARTALK Program: Teaching for Proficiency and Career Readiness will train teachers in evidence-based principles of effective language learning and teaching so they can create learning experiences that allow their students to proficiently use languages in real-world contexts. Secondary and postsecondary teachers of Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Persian and Russian are invited to apply for the year-long program. It will run from May 2024 through May 2025 and comprise two online modules as well as a nine-day in-person module on UTA’s campus. Co-PIs on the project are Barbara Berthold, senior lecturer of modern languages, and Pete Smith, professor of modern languages.

The student program STARTALK: Path to Careers in U.S.-Russia Diplomacy is a full Russian immersion program that will engage students to demonstrate Russian language proficiency, have a deeper understanding of U.S.-Russia relations and be equipped to pursue Russian language careers. Similar to the teacher program, participants will complete two online modules and a two-week residential camp. Co-PIs are Smith and Lonny Harrison, associate professor and director of the Charles T. McDowell Center for Global Studies.

The student program will run from January 2024 through December 2024; it’s open to high school 11th- and 12th-grade and college freshmen and sophomore students enrolled in a U.S. institution. A novice level understanding of Russian is required for applicants to be considered.

“This program switched from being just four weeks to a full year, and it gives us an opportunity to teach and prepare teachers and students so much more,” Price said. “Participating in a program like this will increase the marketability of students’ language skills for their future careers in fields like diplomacy or intelligence, and prepare teachers to teach not only toward proficiency, but also to make sure their students are prepared for language careers.

“The students who have gone through this program in the past are on a path to success, in part due to their STARTALK experience. We have students say they’d go through the program again just to have the full immersion experience; it truly is a unique way of learning. The teachers who have done the program say they find new perspectives of language learning and find innovative ways to teach language learners.”

Prospective student participants seeking additional information can email with questions.