This post was authored by Associate Professor Dr. Liu Li.

Learning a Critical-Need Language for a Global Future

Thanks to the STARTALK grant awarded to Ball State University, over 30 middle school and high school students participated in Ball State STARTALK Chinese program, which included an online pre-camp learning in Spring, 3-week in-person summer camp, and an online post-camp learning in the Fall. The eligible 11th- and 12th-grade participants can take the STARTALK program for dual credits. They will receive four credits for both high school and college graduation. 

Dr. Liu Li, Associate Professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Classics at Ball State University, and her team are coordinating the learning activities.

“Our STARTALK program allows students to learn Chinese, which is a critical-need language in the USA. Students will learn not only the language and the culture but also the new opportunities and future possibilities learning Chinese can offer in their career pathways and in their lives in general. Classes will integrate using Chinese language and cross-cultural products, practices, and perspectives while engaging students in group projects, field trips, and cultural activities. Examples include virtual tours of places where the languages are spoken and cultural exposure and exploration through history, food, music, entertainment, technology, and art.” 

The students are from middle schools and high schools (including home-school) in Indiana, Hawaii, Vermont, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. They have diverse backgrounds. The Ball State STARTALK Chinese program provides an excellent opportunity for them to bond and learn from each other. 

Community partners, including the Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhist Center, the IU Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, and the Indiana Association of Chinese Americans (IACA), generously lent support to the Ball State STARTALK program to promote the learning of Chinese language and culture. Mr. Kwan Hui, IACA President of 2023, visited the camp three times to teach the students Chinese traditional lion dance. The teachers and students were grateful for the support and help from the community collaboration. 

The 3-week in-person summer camp was completed successfully on June 30, 2023. Students and their family members participated in the closing ceremony. In the ceremony, students received participation certificates and certificates of excellence for their outstanding performance in learning the Chinese language and culture. They also performed Chinese songs, folk dances, yoyo, and fashion shows in Chinese traditional costumes. 

STARTALK Summer Camps are sponsored by the National Security Agency (a national-level intelligence agency of the United States Department of Defense) to increase the number of American students learning critical languages such as Chinese. Asian countries like China, Japan, and India play an important role in the world. The Ball State STARTALK Chinese program helps middle school and high school students get to know more about Asian languages and culture for the US national security and economic competitiveness. 

Ball State University has also received funding for next year’s STARTALK Chinese program. The Ball State STARTALK Chinese Summer Academy of 2024 will include a virtual pre-camp learning in spring, a 15-day residential summer camp, and a virtual post-camp learning in the Fall. The program is tuition-free. Meals and accommodation are also provided free of charge. Eligible Grades 9-14 students are welcome to apply in fall 2023 through this link.