Distance learning options offer greater opportunity for foreign and heritage language learners to study a broader range of languages. UW-Madison is nationally known for its pioneering role in innovative language instruction. The Wisconsin Intensive Summer Language Institutes (WISLI), working together with the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) and funded by the Henry Luce Foundation, is current surveying what distance learning opportunities exist for the Less Commonly Taught Languages of Asia in Wisconsin and across the country.
Started in September 2017, the first phase of the project is the creation of a database which contains information on where Asian Less Commonly Taught Languages are offered, focusing on where distance learning options available, and gathering information on the course offerings, including frequency of courses, technology used, and fee structures. The goal is to help promote national access to pedagogically informed LCTL instruction, already a hallmark of UW-Madison.
Working on this project is graduate student assistant, Emily Jorgenson. Emily studied a semester of Thai at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as an undergraduate student, and for two years, worked as a volunteer for English education in the Peace Corps in Indonesia. Living in a village on the east side of Java, Emily learned Indonesian through immersion and daily use. She is currently working on a Master’s Degree in Southeast Asian Studies and in addition to continuing studying Indonesian, she is also interested in learning Javanese. Emily is excited to be working on the project, saying:
While I was in the process of finding schools that offered Southeast Asian Studies degrees, it was really important for me to find schools that offered Indonesian and potentially Javanese language classes. It was difficult to find a database of information online and something like this would have been very beneficial, so I understand how important this project is. I look forward to making a resource for students of all ages and backgrounds who want to pursue less commonly taught Asian languages in and outside of the classroom.
The database and website project will be debuted at the Association for Asian Studies Conference in Washington, DC in March 2018, during Katherine Bowie’s term as AAS President. Dr. Bowie, Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor in the Anthropology Department, was director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies when the crisis in Title VI funding occurred. This crisis catalyzed her commitment to the importance of preserving LCTL instruction. Dr. Bowie stated
I am so pleased to see this national LCTL survey is finally happening. At a time of budget cuts and the rise of butts-in-seats metrics, LCTLs are even more endangered than before. I am hoping that with the development of fee structures, distance LCTL instruction can become a win-win for all involved. Through distance technology, we can help generate revenue for those institutions with pedagogically informed language instructors while at the same time expand access to the full array of languages that individual colleges and universities are not able to provide their students otherwise.
The Director of the Wisconsin Intensive Summer Language Institutes, Dr. Felecia Lucht, is working with Dr. Bowie and Emily on the project and can be contacted with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.