STARTALK, a federal program to promote teaching of critical languages during the summer vacation, which enters the 12th year of operation has been a major force behind expanding the formal teaching of Hindi in the United States.
Conducted by the National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland, STARTALK-supported Hindi programs have become popular in a number of states, such as, New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Texas.
The Sangam-Franklin STARTALK Hindi Language and Cultural Program is among the half a dozen programs that New Jersey will host this summer. It will be held from July 22 to August 8, at Franklin High School in Somerset, New Jersey.
Currently in its fourth year Sangam-Franklin STARTALK is conducted by Hindi Sangam Foundation, a non-profit educational and cultural organization supported by the Franklin Township School District.
John Ravally, superintendent, Franklin Township Board of Education, agreed to collaborate with the HSF in 2016 to host this program. He invited senior educators of the district to help this program succeed. As a result Franklin High School in Somerset, NJ was designated as the host institution and extended its resources, such as classrooms, auditorium, mirrored dance room, art room, cafeteria and state-of-the-art technology facilities for the success of the program.
“Rich resources of a school is necessary for conducting cultural and technological activities at STARTALK programs,” Sanjyot Tatke, senior instructor and professional development coordinator of the program, is quoted saying in a press release. “Our instructors diligently select varieties of topics under the theme of ‘Storytelling’ with rich cultural content appropriate for our students who are studying in Middle and High Schools of neighboring district,” Tatke said, adding, “We aim at improving students proficiency in speaking, reading and writing aspects of Hindi and follow the guidelines of the American Council on Teaching Foreign Languages.”
She said that STARTALK guidelines ensures that language teachers prepare students to face the challenges of 21st century’s global and local realities that require critical thinking, intercultural sensitivities, multi model communication skills and innovativeness. Language education and cultural understanding are at the heart of developing global awareness for students, said Tatke who is also coordinating a similar program in Lansdale, PA, where Yuva Hindi Sansthan, YHS, a sister organization, is conducting STARTALK summer program for the seventh year in a row.
“North Penn School District, our local collaborator and the heritage community members are very impressed by the outcome of our program,” Tatke said in the press release. “This year we are recruiting forty students from Elementary, Middle and High Schools in the area. We will use varieties of topics under the theme of ‘A Virtual Trip To India’ and engage students in interactive cultural, artistic, theatrical and technological activities during the program.”
“STARTALK functions under two tracks-one for teaching students and other for training instructors”, said Vijay Gambhir, Ph.D., a retired Hindi lecturer of the University of Pennsylvania, where she taught Hindi for more than three decades and now serves as a trainer for instructors of YHS STARTALK Hindi Program. She said, “STARTALK trained teachers follow the same guidelines that prevail in the teaching of world languages in public schools, colleges and universities in the US. They teach Primary, Middle and High School students in short-term programs using authentic material produced in the native culture. These authentic materials reflect the products, practices and perspectives of the native culture. The goal of this formal language teaching is to prepare learners as future ‘world citizens’ who could communicate in a language other than English. Hindi is a foreign language for USA, however, it remains a native language for students of Indian origin. This program is a meaningful effort to transform the USA into a multilingual society.”
According to the press release, the STARTALK program has reached its maturity as more teachers from heritage background enter the field of education. Organizers believe that with its categorization as a critical language for the United States from business, commerce and national security points of view, millennial kids have better opportunities to become bilingual as they grow up to pursue their careers of choice.