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HCC’s STARTALK Gives High School Students Opportunity to Learn New Language

activity as part of the startalk program

In eighth grade, while living in Israel, Maya Patel participated in a swim team at the Jerusalem YMCA with a diverse group of children of various faiths. Despite the wonderful opportunity for connections, a language barrier prevented members of the team from communicating in a meaningful way.

“I came out of my experience with a strong desire to know both Hebrew and Arabic,” Maya said. “When I returned to America, I was thrilled to learn about STARTALK.”

Howard Community College’s (HCC) STARTALK is a five-week intensive summer language program for high school students to learn Arabic or Mandarin Chinese in the college’s World Languages academic program. STARTALK is available to students in grades 9th through 12th, including recent high school graduates. In lively, task-based classes, students acquire both practical and situational language skills, learn about cultural traditions, and benefit from authentic materials in the language. At the completion of STARTALK, students will have earned four college credits and are prepared to enter the next level of language instruction.

Funded by a grant from the National Security Agency (NSA), the college credit program provides four hours of immersed learning per day, four days a week. The program began July 3 and will run through August 3 on HCC’s campus in Columbia.

Maya loved the combination of reading, writing, and grammar lessons alongside fun cultural lessons during every class. One of her favorite experiences during her summer in STARTALK was traveling as a class to a neighborhood in New York and shopping for food and souvenirs using the Arabic she had learned.

“We had only been in STARTALK for a few weeks, but we could already completely order food and ask for directions,” she said.

STARTALK was an important first step in Maya’s long process of learning Arabic. She says the program prepared her for other Arabic courses not geared toward high school students. Since participating in STARTALK, Maya has taken Arabic at summer programs, held at the University of Maryland and Georgetown University.

“I was the only high school student, but because of the strong background STARTALK provided me, I kept up with the rest of the students,” she said.

Maya will attend Columbia University in the fall, and says she will continue to enroll in Arabic courses.

STARTALK was James Bishner’s first college experience just after graduating high school in 2010. He loved Hindi 101, and still says that his teachers, Rudy and Vinnie, are two of the best he’s ever had. Last year, James was selected for a MACCAE scholarship, which entailed two months of intensive Hindi study in Jaipur, Rajasthan.

It was a fantastic experience, and James said he credits STARTALK with being his first step in getting there.

Dana Myers attended STARTALK for two summers in 2012 and 2013, and studied Mandarin Chinese. She has since made great use of her Chinese language skills, according to her mother, Pam Myers.

Dana graduated from NYU Shanghai, an undergraduate university in Shanghai China – with affiliations with NYU in the United States – in May with a degree in Global China Studies and a minor in Chinese language.

“Thank you so much for the excellent preparation that the STARTALK program provided,” Pam Meyers said.

Interested in participating in STARTALK next summer? Click here for more information and details about the admission process.  

Topics: Campus Life
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