WMU Receives STARTALK Grant

Students learning ArabicDr. Wafa Hassan, assistant professor of Western Michigan University's Department of World Languages and Literatures, secured an $88,000 federal STARTALK grant to fund a summer workshop on the teaching of Arabic. Hassan's project, "STARTALK in Action: Technology in the Learner-Centered Arabic Classroom" will take place in Detroit, Michigan, from July 29-August 15. This is Hassan's eighth STARTALK grant, but first one as a faculty member of WMU.

According to Bloomberg's latest business language report, Arabic has become the third most useful business language, making it increasingly important in the classroom. WMU's affiliation with STARTALK is vital in maintaining relevance in business and education communities. Through STARTALK, teachers will be educated on methods of teaching Arabic in the classroom while local high school students benefit by participating in the process. By training 22 teachers in Arabic instruction and having 30 students go through the program Hassan is confident that the awareness of WMU's commitment to global engagement will rise.

The decision to host the program in Detroit was intentional. Hassan plans to recruit teachers and students from Detroit and Dearborn public schools to participate. Not only are the majority of Arabic speakers in the state of Michigan located in the metro Detroit area, but WMU's affiliation with STARTALK will increase the University's visibility in Southeast Michigan. Hassan states that this program will make WMU visible to Detroit and "will bring students to WMU to study Arabic." Additionally, STARTALK will increase WMU's partnership with the Michigan State University Detroit outreach center as MSU has donated the space for the instruction. 

STARTALK is a methodology course with an extensive focus. While going through the program, participants will be taught that technology can be used in innovative ways to create language engaging lessons. According to Hassan the "purpose of using technology programs as tools will encourage students to produce language and create voice and text messaging in Arabic." Students will have the option and be encouraged to create cartoons in Arabic and to use avatars to communicate with one another. Participants will receive a certificate for completion and continuing education units.

In order to make this program successful, Hassan will hire three teachers and enlist the help of experts in teaching in Arabic to present during the workshop. Hassan, also an expert in teaching Arabic will do much of the training along with the teachers she hires.

STARTALK is a program of the National Security Language Initiative announce by former President Bush in January 2006. The initiative seeks to expand and improve the teaching and learning of strategically important world languages that are not widely taught in the United States. STARTALK provides critical language education for students K-16, professional development for critical language teachers and resources for the world language teaching and learning field.