Grant offers summer Chinese culture learning opportunity

Ngoc Vo
Staff Writer

This summer, Troy University will host the STARTALK program, a summer camp for teachers and students to learn Mandarin Chinese. The camp is funded by a federal grant of $100,000 from the U.S. Department of Defense.
“Troy University is still receiving grants for STARTALK programs even though the ones in Kentucky, Georgia, and Mississippi have lost funding,” Iris Hong Xu, director of the Confucius Institute and Asian Studies and co-director of STARTALK program, said.
Summer 2014 will be the fourth time the Troy Confucius Institute holds the camp with the funding.
“We must have a really good and effective program because we are still receiving the grant,” Xu said, “Every year we have to reapply for the funding and go through evaluation.”
The STARTALK program consists of two workshops: one for teachers of Mandarin Chinese and one for students of the language.
The program is free for both student and teacher attendees, but applicants do have to pay an application fee. Participants of the program will also receive free housing, transportation and field trips, Xu said.
Those who participate in the STARTALK program are typically working Mandarin instructors looking for professional development, future Mandarin teachers and Troy students who hope to teach Mandarin in the future.
According to Xu, the program helps the local community because Alabama needs Mandarin teachers.
“We are short of modern Chinese teachers,” Xu said. “A lot of the teachers are hired out of the state.”
The teacher workshop helps future teachers know how to teach the language, manage the classroom and evaluate and use textbooks.
“Western and Eastern classroom management are completely different,” Xu said. “The teachers have to know the culture, the language, and the methodology of teaching a second language.”
The student workshop usually focuses on teenagers aged 15 to 18, the majority of whom are in high school in Alabama or other southeastern states. They are American students with varying knowledge of Mandarin Chinese.
“In Alabama, not many schools offer Mandarin,” Xu said, “This program is to help them learn the language as soon as possible. I think future Americans will need to know [Mandarin] … for economic and political purposes.”
The STARTALK program will be from June 22 to July 6 on Troy University’s campus. The registration period has been extended to April 28.
“We have enough people registered,” Xu said, “but we want to be selective. Because of a drop in funding, we are accepting only 12 teachers and 24 students (70 students attended last year’s program). We have a very selective admission committee.”
Students can receive three college credits from Troy University and will be prepared to enter the next level of language instruction.
All teaching, with teachers from all over the United States, will be conducted in Chinese which is a requirement for accepting the grant.
To apply for the program, each applicant needs to send an application form, an application fee, a school transcript, a teacher’s recommendation and an essay. The application fee for students is $50, and $100 for teachers. More information can be found at
“This program will help not only Troy or the state of Alabama but also for (the entire country). It is important that Americans learn critical need languages like Mandarin or Arabic and understand the different cultures,” Xu said.

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