NSA funds Chinese language program at Fresno State

Fresno State sign. (Jorge Rodriguez/The Collegian)

This past summer, the Fresno State linguistics department launched its second year of the Chinese summer program with a STARTALK grant funded by the National Security Agency. 

The linguistics department had received a STARTALK grant of $60,570 to develop the program in order to encourage American youth to learn critical languages, develop teachers to teach these languages and draft curriculums to foster the learning experience.

Every STARTALK grant consists of a mission and objective(s). The program aims to encourage more students to study critical languages for American national security and defense. 

“Almost one billion people living in the world speak Mandarin Chinese,” said Li Mann, a Chinese instructor in the linguistics department. “A lot of people think that English and Spanish are widely spoken languages. But by the number of speakers, Chinese has the largest numbers.”

Participants attended the program for half a day for three weeks at Fresno State. 

The registration fee of $30 included a variety of activities, such as dances, learning with technology, snacks and a field trip to San Francisco to visit the Asian Art Museum and Chinatown as part of this summer’s “Going Places” theme. 

The program hosted two Chinese classes, four Chinese teachers, a consultant, two classroom aides and two volunteers for students from third to eighth grades. The program coordinators had a goal of enrolling 40 students as it had done last summer. 

The program’s total enrollment was 21 students from the middle school level and 17 students from elementary.

In a final report, the department stated that the students in the program represented 18 different ZIP codes, 33 different schools and 14 different ethnic groups. 

The overall goal for the linguistics department is to help students broaden their perspectives on race, culture and diversity.

The linguistics department and program coordinators aim to continue the STARTALK program with additional languages in the years to come.

The department offers Fresno State students language minors such as Chinese, Japanese and Hmong. There is also a degree for teaching English as a second language.

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