Macalester College professors James Laine and Arjun Guneratne will collaborate with University of Minnesota professor Sungok Hong to lead a project to make Hindi language instruction available to students at colleges that do not offer it.
The project, called Sharing the Bounty: Increasing Access to Language Learning through Language Sharing and Faculty Collaboration, is funded by a $42,448 grant from the Enhancing the Midwest Knowledge Ecosystem (EMKE) program.
The project is aimed at developing resource materials for teaching Hindi, creating a textbook and online course, and then offering a pilot online course through the University of Minnesota next fall for students at Macalester. Over time, the faculty plan to lay the groundwork to offer the course to other ACM and Midwestern colleges and to foster language sharing in other less frequently taught South Asian languages.
The EMKE program, supported by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, focuses on exploring areas of potential collaboration between the 14 liberal arts colleges in the ACM and the 15 research universities in the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), which includes the Big Ten universities plus the University of Chicago.
Sharing the Bounty was selected for funding from among several proposals for projects in language sharing and digital humanities that were submitted this past summer by faculty from ACM and CIC institutions.
While faculty at ACM and CIC institutions have not previously worked together in this area, language sharing “can be a game changer in the future with the help of evolving technology,” the project leaders noted in their grant proposal. “Online language courses and distance learning may help with issues such as low course enrollment, shrinking variety in university offerings, and a dispersed student population. We have seen many colleges [and] universities cancel LCTL [Less Commonly Taught Language] courses due to low enrollment. If we utilize online distance learning effectively, we will create a better solution.”
Professors Laine (religious studies), Guneratne (anthropology), and Hong (Asian languages and literatures) will be joined in the project by several faculty who will collaborate in creating the Hindi language textbook, including Syed Ekhteyar Ali (Director of the South Asian Language Program) and Pinderjeet Gill (Punjabi and Hindi language) from the University of Michigan, Rajiv Ranjan (Hindi studies) from Michigan State University, and Lakhan Gusain (Hindi) from Syracuse University.
The faculty involved in Sharing the Bounty aim to develop materials that will be comprehensive, focusing on improving students’ overall language skills while also addressing content from a variety of disciplines to provide knowledge about the culture in countries where the language is spoken.
A project workshop in spring 2016 will bring the participating faculty together to share ideas and insights for producing theme-based instructional resources that use current teaching methodologies to increase students’ proficiency in speaking, writing, and reading Hindi, as well as the similar language, Urdu.
The group will produce a Hindi textbook at the intermediate level, available in both online and book formats. The online materials will be used as the main textbook for beginning and intermediate Hindi classes.
Over the longer term, the project aims to share curricular materials and expertise in implementing online instruction with other colleges and universities in the Midwest, and eventually nationally, to broaden the availability of South Asian languages.
(Editor’s note: This article revised for clarity on November 17, 2015.)