SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The campus of Wofford College teems with music, art, food and sports during the summer, and if you listen carefully, you may not be able to even understand what all the fun is about. That could be because everyone – at least in one program – is speaking Chinese.
For the third year, STARTALK @ Wofford is offering a free two-week immersion experience into Chinese for 6th through 12th-grade students in Spartanburg, Greenville and other nearby counties.
Wofford has been awarded a grant through STARTALK, a component program of the National Security Language Initiative (NSLI), each year since 2013. STARTALK’s mission is to increase the number of Americans learning, speaking and teaching critical need foreign languages. This year’s award reflects the success of the college’s 2013 and 2014 programs.
“We hope to continue making this program more engaging each year,” says Dr. Yongfang Zhang, director of STARTALK @ Wofford and assistant professor of Chinese. Wofford will continue offering eight additional online modules after the two-week, on-campus intensive program for students to cement the language skills gained during the summer. Individualized tutoring sessions also will be offered beginning in the fall following the summer intensive program.
“In doing this, STARTALK @ Wofford intends to extend the learning process so that it will continue and last,” Zhang says. “Our team also has designed an app for iOS devices to go along with our language units. Campers can learn how to write Chinese characters more interactively this way than through the traditional method of character tracing on paper.”
During the on-campus session, students will be enrolled in intensive language classes in the morning with afternoon cultural experiences, Zhang says. “Cultural experiences will continue to be held in small groups, and personalized cultural projects will combine students’ individual interests and talents in music, arts, sports, drama, cuisine and handcrafts,” she adds. “The small groups will allow students focused collaboration with their instructor as well as their peers, while personalized cultural projects will enable students to better understand the similarities and differences between their own culture and Chinese culture, and expand their talents.”
Zhang continues, “At STARTALK @ Wofford, we will give students access to language and culture that they might not find at their home school. Wofford also will encourage students to continue with their Chinese studies so they will become global citizens with cross-cultural competence who are prepared to succeed in the 21st century, a desire that coincides with Wofford’s own mission.”
STARTALK @ Wofford will continue to seek other opportunities to impact the local community, such as introducing external funding and scholarship opportunities to campers and local schools. One alumna camper from both 2013 and 2014 became one of the first recipients in Upstate South Carolina of the National Security Language Initiative for Youth scholarship, which fully sponsored her study abroad experience in China in the summer of 2014.
While STARTALK @ Wofford is free, students must be passionate, motivated and have demonstrated academic excellence. “As we will only be accepting 45 students, priority is given to students who plan to continue the study of Chinese and who are committed to completing the majority of the program,” Zhang says.
The two-week intensive program will be held June 8 through June 19. Pre-program orientation will be held on June 6. The individual tutoring sessions will be offered in September and will end in early February; details will be announced during the summer intensive program.
Transportation will be provided to and from Greenville.
Applications for the summer program are due by May 31. The online application is available at www.wofford.edu/startalk/. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. For more information, contact Dr. Yongfang Zhang at firstname.lastname@example.org.
STARTALK is the newest of the component programs of the National Security Language Initiative (NSLI) announced by former President George Bush in January 2006. The initiative seeks to expand and improve the teaching and learning of strategically important world languages that are not now widely taught in the U.S. Other programs under the NSLI umbrella include Title VI/Fulbright Hays programs of the U.S. Department of Education, The National Security Education Program (NSEP) of the U.S. Department of Defense, and study abroad and exchange programs of the U.S. Department of State. STARTALK’s mission is to increase the number of Americans learning, speaking and teaching critical need foreign languages by offering students (K-16) and teachers of these languages creative and engaging summer experiences that strive to exemplify best practices in language education and in language teacher development, forming an extensive community of practice that seeks continuous improvement in such criteria as outcomes-driven program design, standards-based curriculum planning, learner-centered approaches, excellence in selection and development of materials, and meaningful assessment of outcomes.