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Q: What is STARTALK?


A: STARTALK is a federally funded program that seeks to expand and improve the teaching and learning of strategically important world languages that are not now widely taught in the US.


STARTALK’s mission is to increase the number of Americans learning, speaking, and teaching critical need foreign languages by offering K-16 students and teachers of these languages creative and engaging summer experiences that strive to exemplify best practices in language education and in language teacher development.


Q: Can you provide information about the School for Global Education & Innovation at Kean University?


A: The School for Global Education & Innovation (SGEI), housed within the College of Education at Kean University, has been awarded funding to offer STARTALK Student and Teacher Programs since 2010 and is committed to the teaching of critical need languages by using the full range of digital-age learning tools to foster high levels of student language/culture proficiency and to customize learning activities for individual student needs. 


The vision of the School for Global Education & Innovation is aligned with Kean University’s mission to provide students with a world-class education by experiencing educational excellence within a global context. Accordingly, the School offers pre- and in-service teachers opportunities to become globally competent educators prepared to learn and teach about the world in all content areas through curriculum innovations, use of digital technologies, language and culture immersion, and international internships.

Q: What are the dates of the program?


A: The dates vary from summer to summer. Dates for the current year may be found on the SGEI website

     website: Click on STARTALK Initiatives.


    -Onsite component:         2-week duration

    -Online component:         1-week duration immediately following the onsite component

    -Graduation:                      Last day of the program


Q: Where is the program being held?


A: The onsite program will take place on the Kean University Union Campus from 8:45 AM-3:45 PM.

    Information on the building location will be found on the program website.


Q: Who is the target audience for this program?


A: This program is designed for Hindi/Urdu high school/early college  heritage language speakers who wish to gain higher levels of language proficiency through the study of Hindi/Urdu in real world contexts and in 21st century environments using innovative learning technologies. The program will enroll approximately 20-25 Hindi and 15-20 Urdu Intermediate Range heritage language learners


Q: Why should my son/daughter enroll in this program?


A: Students will have the opportunity to increase their language proficiency through an instructional model that integrates the latest learning technologies and includes daily interactions with students and teachers in schools in India and Pakistan. They will also be able to earn college and/or high school credits through the New York University Hindi/Urdu Proficiency Test upon successful completion of the program. Test results are certified by NYU and may also be used for future employment purposes, as well as for obtaining academic credit.


Q: What is involved in the application process?

A: Each student should first complete a preliminary online application form. If the application is approved, s(he) will be notified within a week by a member of the Selection Committee to arrange a date for a telephonic interview in Hindi/Urdu and a brief electronic assessment of reading and writing skills to be completed at home. Dependent on the results of the assessment, each student will then receive a formal letter of acceptance to the program and information about the registration process.

Q: Can you provide an overview of the program?


Learning", will enroll Hindi/Urdu Intermediate/Advanced Range heritage language learners in a three-week blended learning experience totaling 100 instructional hours. The primary goal is to increase students' language proficiency by one sub-level in one or more skill areas in Reading, Speaking and Writing and to improve linguistic accuracy/cultural skills in speaking through daily interactions with students from India and Pakistan while participating in a Global Project-Based Learning experience. Lesson topics focus on a global and/or human rights issue and developing possible solutions. Lesson topics will serve as the context for developing increasing linguistic, cultural and global competencies through co-teaching strategies that target specific skill areas and one-to-one coaching to meet varying learner needs identified by pre assessments.  Hindi/Urdu teachers, who participated in past STARTALK Programs and in Continuing Teacher Education Programs, will serve as instructional facilitators in both onsite/online learning environments. All students will be administered the Computerized Assessments of Proficiency (CAP) to measure reading proficiency, an informal Oral Proficiency Interview to measure speaking proficiency and an informal Writing Proficiency Test at the outset of the program, in addition to completing a LinguaFolio self-assessment. Proficiency gains will be determined at the culmination of the program through administration of the NYU Proficiency Test in Hindi/Urdu. Dependent on assessment outcomes, students will be eligible to earn college credit and/or New Jersey high school credit (N.J.S.A. 18A:35-4.18: Provides students in public schools the opportunity to receive instruction in and graduation credit for a world language not taught in the public school district). Subsequent to the summer program, students will be eligible to participate in the Extended Online Learning Program. 


Q: What is Global Project-Based Learning?


A: Global Project-Based Learning (G-PBL) is an instructional model that builds upon the inquiry based learning concept by addressing the development of global competence and awareness of cultural perspectives through ongoing opportunities for cross-cultural interactions, mediated by the use of technology as an integral part of the learning process (Jensen, Searson, Yildiz, 2010). G-PBL supports and enhances language instruction and the development of intercultural competence through daily interactions with heritage language learners and their peers in India and Pakistan that center on a global issue, invite deep engagement and lead to the creation of a final product and performance for an authentic audience.  Students will engage in learning opportunities that extend the boundaries of the classroom and consistently place knowledge/culture acquisition and language skill development in a global context.  As such, it is likely that a natural outcome of the program will be the desire to continue the study of Hindi/ Urdu by participating students who will experience firsthand the value of language learning in an interconnected world.


Q: How will technology be integrated into the program?


A: The integration of technology tools to support and enhance instruction is a key component of this program. Global Project-Based Learning requires by definition ongoing opportunities for cross-cultural interactions, mediated by the use of technology as an integral part of the learning process.  As such, the use of Skype, Videoconferencing and Web 2.0 tools occurs throughout the duration of the program. Students will also use iPads purchased through the grant award along with Hindi/Urdu language learning Apps to support the development of language/cultural knowledge and skills.



Q: What is the typical daily schedule?


A: 8:15:    Arrival on Campus   

    8:30:    Breakfast    

    8:45:    Lesson overview and objectives/ Preparing for Cross-Cultural Interactions    

    9:30:    Skype Session with India/Pakistan  

  10:30:    Debriefing/Reflection/New Learning

  12:00:    Lunch

  12:45:    Collaboration/Transfer of Learning/

    2:45:    Presentational Tasks

    3:45:    Extended Learning Tasks


Q: What are some of the specific anticipated student outcomes as a result of participation in this program?


A: By the end of the program, students will be able to:

  • Read and demonstrate comprehension of selected authentic informational and literary texts related to the project theme/global issue.

  • Demonstrate comprehension of live and recorded presentations/clips made by Hindi/Urdu educators, experts and government officials on topics related to the global issue.

  • Ask/answer questions and discuss orally/in writing topics related to the global issue.

  • Interview professionals from the local Hindi/Urdu Community to obtain additional perspectives.

  • Communicate in Hindi/Urdu using appropriate verbal and nonverbal strategies for interpersonal/presentational purposes.

  • Analyze, synthesize and weigh information gained about the issue that considers Indian, Pakistani and American perspectives and propose possible solutions.

  • Demonstrate growth to the next proficiency sub level in one or more skill areas as evidenced by the NYU Proficiency Test.

  • Write a reflection on how the ability to effectively communicate in the Hindi/Urdu language and to understand multiple cultural perspectives provides access to resources and opportunities for collaboration that contribute to local/global improvement.


Q: What is the process for obtaining NJ high school credits for achieving higher levels of language proficiency?


A: According to New Jersey administrative code 6A:8-5.1(a)1i(7), students may fulfill the state minimum five-credit high school graduation requirement for world languages through a seat-time instructional program or by successfully completing a proficiency/competency-based exit test. The Department of Education offers guidelines on selecting proficiency assessments that may be used by districts. These assessments are used in the Kean STARTALK Program. Further, N.J.A.C. 6A:8-5.1(b)4 directs districts to actively encourage all students who otherwise meet the current-year requirements for high school graduation to accrue, during each year of enrollment, five credits in world languages aimed at preparation for entrance into postsecondary programs or 21st-century careers.

In addition, it is important to note the following:

  • For students in public schools that do not currently offer Hindi or Urdu as part of their world language program, N.J.S.A. 18A:35-4.18: Provides students in public schools the opportunity to receive instruction in and graduation credit for a world language not taught in the public school district.

  • The process is as follows:

  1. The student and his/her parents must submit a  written request to the high school principal through the supervisor of world languages seeking to be granted graduation credit for a language program not offered in the local public school district. (Sample letter may be found on the project website.)

  2. The student must also submit the already completed Non-Public School World Languages Program Application Form describing the Kean STARTALK Program (found on the project website) to be submitted to the local public school district through the world languages supervisor for program approval.

  3. The district notifies Kean of program approval.

  4. Kean certifies student completion of the program based on specified instructional objectives and assessment results on the NYU Proficiency Test.

  5. The district awards credits, the number of which is dependent on the results of the NYU proficiency test. Since the current state proficiency level for world languages has been identified by the Department of Education as Novice-High, the goal is for students in the Kean STARTALK Program to earn additional credits for attaining higher levels of proficiency beyond the level documented by the CAPS and other pre assessments prior to their enrollment in the STARTALK Program.


  • For students in public schools, such as Edison,  that offer Hindi, the same process may be followed provided that students attain higher levels of proficiency beyond the level documented by the CAPS and other pre assessments prior to their enrollment in the STARTALK Program.


Q: What is the process for obtaining college credits for achieving higher levels of language proficiency?


A:  With regard to college admission office evaluation of student transcripts, many colleges and universities will recognize the proficiency ratings obtained through the NYU Proficiency Test and/or the ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview for the awarding of credits. Some colleges may use the proficiency rating to waive college language requirements or to place students in more advanced courses. However, if possible, it is recommended that students interested in pursuing language study in a less commonly taught language (e.g.,  Hindi, Urdu) for credit consult with the institution of higher education they are seeking to attend. All colleges will be able to verify their credit requirements for world languages and provide a list of languages that they will consider for admission purposes. Note that documentation/certification of proficiency levels by the NYU and ACTFL tests is recognized by institutions and corporations worldwide and will be beneficial for future employment purposes as well.

Q: Who are the Project Personnel?


A: Janis Jensen, project director, is a recognized world language educator at the local, state and national levels.  Ms. Jensen served as State Coordinator of World Languages and International Education at the NJ Department of Education where she implemented standards-based reform in world languages and is currently Director of STARTALK Language Initiatives at the School for Global Education & Innovation.


Nita Yajnik will serve as lead Hindi instructor and onsite/online Hindi language/pedagogy coach. Ms. Yajnik possesses a Master’s degree in Hindi Literature and Linguistics and holds certification as a New Jersey teacher of Hindi and as an ACTFL OPI tester.  She is currently teaching ESL in the Orange SD and Hindi as an adjunct at St. John’s University. She formerly taught Hindi at the secondary level in the Edison PS District where she received the 2008-09 Award for Best Teacher. She has also taught Hindi in the Kean and West Windsor STARTALK Programs.


Romeena Kureishy will serve as lead Urdu instructor and onsite/online Urdu language/pedagogy coach. Ms. Kureishy is currently completing her M.A. degree in Urdu this spring and served as Urdu Instructor for the Kean/STARTALK Program in 2017. She was formerly an Instructor in and later Program Director of the U Penn STARTALK Urdu Program. She was also a participant in the NYU STARTALK OPI Training Program and the U Penn Excellence in Leadership Summer Institute.

Dr. Michael Searson will serve as Technology Director of the program. He is a past president of the Society for Information Technology in Teacher Education (SITE) and a recognized national and international expert on the use of established and emerging technologies. Other members of the instructional staff include STARTALK trained teachers.



Q: Does the STARTALK program provide housing for participants?

A: No, the Kean STARTALK grant was not written to include funding for housing participants in the student program. However, members of the Hindi or Urdu communities that who live close to the Union Campus may be willing to house a guest student from another area.



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